Taxing Income from Wealth Can Always Raise More Money Than a Wealth Tax

Posted on by

Yves here. We’ve repeatedly pointed out that as much as they are emotionally appealing, wealth taxes do not work well in practice. Even the more cost-effective version of a wealth tax, called an inheritance tax, does a poor job of actually snagging the lucre of the rich. In the US, as we have pointed out, the IRS has lost every large estate valuation case since 1981.

This post by Richard Murphy does a tidy job of explaining why a wealth tax is not a great way to try to skin a cat, and describes why taking income would be far more effective in curbing excessive the further growth of the billionaire class.

By Richard Murphy, part-time Professor of Accounting Practice at Sheffield University Management School, director of the Corporate Accountability Network, member of Finance for the Future LLP, and director of Tax Research LLP. Originally published at Fund the Future

I was asked to comment on Brazil’s proposal for a global 2% annual wealth tax on billionaires by a journalist, yesterday. This is what I write to them:

Everyone who has never been involved in the practicalities of collecting tax loves the idea of a wealth tax. And in principle, I agree with them. It would be great if we could tax the wealth of billionaires. The inequality between them and everyone else is economically destructive.

I, though, have been involved in the practicalities of collecting tax for decades and that is why I cannot get excited by this idea. The problems of imposing a worldwide wealth tax include:

  • Finding the wealth.
  • Proving that someone owns it
  • Agreeing the value of that wealth: what are private companies, works of art, racehorses, esoteric properties and exceptionally rare wines, and so much more, really worth?
  • Collecting the money before the billionaire has disappeared to a place that refuses to cooperate with this tax
  • Repeating the process, year in and year out.

Any tax authority that tries to undertake this exercise will need access to vast numbers of valuation experts, an armoury of lawyers, and a bottomless pit of funds to take on the legal disputes with the billionaires who they’re trying to tax .

Alternatively, countries could have:

  • Seriously progressive income tax rates
  • Capital gains tax rates in line with income tax rates
  • Progressive inheritance taxes with strictly capped reliefs for business property that only require assetvaluations once in a lifetime
  • Progressive corporation tax rates, particularly for private companies
  • Close company and trust rules that attribute the income of private companies and trusts to beneficiaries annually so that the personal tax rates owing on these sums is not avoided by hiding them in legal entities.

My solution is not perfect. However, it has a lot more chance of success than the 2% wealth tax, and will probably raise considerably more money at a lower cost. If that is the real goal, rather than political posturing being the aim, then pragmatism is to be preferred.

I stick by that.

Which is why I wrote the Taxing Wealth Report, because that is my aim. I am not into posturing. I am into practical solutions. I have suggested what that looks like.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. ciroc

    Let’s do what’s doable instead of discussing what we don’t know is doable. Raising the capital gains tax is doable right now.

    1. Mikel

      I wonder what all the current tricks are to keep from paying capital gains taxes?
      Raising taxes and collecting taxes are different things.

      But what I think about is the financial elite circle jerk – especially on display during QE and other easy money programs.
      That is where they loan each other money (at fixed low interest rates most people will NEVER see) based on inflated asset prices.
      That is often the money they use for spending, not selling assets.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Countries could also impose a financial transaction tax. As an example, every time money is moved or an asset such as a stock or bond is purchased or sold there would be a tax on it. You could make it something like 1% which does not sound much but due to the sheer volume of money movements, the revenues gained would accumulate rapidly. You could say that it would be also a tax on financial speculation as the movement of money is the life blood of places like Wall Street and the City of London.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Yves and Rev.

      I think Richard has it right.

      With regard to the Rev’s suggestion, an existing UK tax, stamp duty (on real estate), could be extended to securities. A recent study modelled such a tax from 1986, when the City was liberalised (aka “big bang”) and estimated that the UK sovereign wealth fund would exceed Norway’s fund many times.

      1. TomDority

        High Frequency Trading tax. A definition and implementation of large taxes on speculative and predatorily derived incomes – definitions having been distorted and upended as described in Micheal Hudson’s books. So defining unearned income, speculative investment income as different than productive income and taxing the former at a higher rate.
        Query: As normal, sane human beings, where should we lay the heavier taxes, on industry or speculation?.
        Taxes are not just a way of raising revenue all cattywampus style – taxes can create disincentive to predatory investment by making it less profitable by taking away the profit motive…. it’s no wonder that tax avoidance and tax ‘efficiency’ constitute such global fights and massive moneys devoted to minimizing tax exposures and, – money, like water, flows to that which produces the least resistance or most gain and the tax and business system with it’s consolidation and financialization is just a reflection of the tax structure and laws the legislature has been paid to impose.
        The financial services sector… I guess a re-intro of Glass-Steagall act separating commercial and investment banking to keep the investement side from it’s continued Bubble blowing and imposition of debt peonage.
        If part of the speculator’s income – no matter how large a part – be taken in taxation, it will not decrease employment or lessen the production of wealth. Whereas, if the producer’s income be taxed it will tend to limit employment and stop the production of wealth.
        Our lawmakers will do well, therefore, to pay less attention to the rate on incomes, and more to the source from whence they are drawn.
        As was said long ago by John Moody
        “The great sore spot in our modern commercial life is found on the speculative side. Under present laws, which foster and encourage speculation, business life is largely a gamble, and to “get something for nothing” is too often considered the keynote to “success”. The great fortunes of today are nearly all speculative fortunes; and the ambitious young man just starting out in life thinks far less of producing or rendering service than he does of “putting it over” on the other fellow. This may seem a broad statement to some: but thirty years of business life in the heart of American commercial activity convinces me that it is absolutely true.
        If, however, the speculative incentive in modern commercial life were eliminated, and no man could become rich or successful unless he gave “value received” and rendered service for service, then indeed a profound change would have been brought in our whole commercial system, and it would be a change which no honest man would regret.”- John Moody, Wall Street Publisher, and President of Moody’s Investors’ Service. Dated 1924

        1. Grayce

          “Industry” used to be corporations with CEOs who earned roughly 40 times the average worker’s take-home pay. Corporation profits do not flow to common stock any longer. CEO, CFO, CIO compensation is sky-high and is, in fact, unsustainable. Just watch Carl Icahn the self-named activist stockholder formerly known as corporate raider. He turns companies into corpses. Stock buybacks to super stockholders and higher borrowing have made it necessary for the CEO level to become creative in making a fiscal year look good. Follow the chiseling of “deferred total comp” to retired employees for one pathway. So, yes, speculation is a narrow way to look at the force of stockholders. Debt-based capitalism, and its effect on inflation, is the tip of another iceberg.

      2. Revenant

        Colonel, Sir, Ahem, without being insubordinate, Sir, there is already (or rather still, since Pitt brought it in, you remember Pitt, Sir, very popular with the junior officers) a stamp duty on share transactions.

        Every UK share sale of more than £1,000 value attracts stamp duty at 0.5%.

        It is fully enforced and cheaply collected.

        Richard Murphy has a blind spot on wealth taxes. How does HMRC collect income tax and CGT and inheritance tax? Not by asking nicely. Indeed, the junkyard dog in town is VAT, which was historically collected by Customs & Excise and they did not mess around. Everybody was treated like a smuggler and their powers of entry and seizure exceed the police. TheInland Revenue was staffed by gentlenan who write polite letters and never gave up.

        You collect taxes by squeezing until the pips squeak. Focusing on IT and CGT etc has exactly the sane problems of evasion, capital flight etc. What it also has is a lack of focus on capital and more pertinently concentration of capital traction, which is so corrosive to democracy and equality and common prosperity.

        If you are going to fight the rich, fight for everything because they will. Taxing capital in proportion to its concentration (a Gini tax) is a political project as much as a technocratic tax base exercise.

    2. YuShan

      I don’t see how this is beneficial. It will just prevent people from transacting. Why would you want that? If a transaction is profitable, it is already taxable as capital gain tax (or when it leads to corporate profits, corporation tax).

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Disagree completely. I grew up when there were fixed commissions and bid-asked spreads in OTC markets were much higher. These super low transaction costs simply foster speculation and ever short term holding.

        The facilitation of speculation is also directly correlated in the explosion in asset management, particularly managers becoming billionaires. The IMF and others have found that higher levels of secondary market trading, which is what low transaction costs facilitate, is strongly correlated witih lower levels of growth.

        1. Mikel

          Facilitation of speculation was the replacement for industrial policy. Fintech is the elite reproduction mechanism now.

          Even Dave & Buster’s is now hooking up with an app “middle-man” and facilitating speculation as means to make money.

        2. JOC

          As a long time analyst and PM, I must disagree. I don’t see how lower transaction costs and tighter B/A spreads could possibly be a bad thing. Does it facilitate more trading, sure. But so what? Doesn’t that improve price discovery over time?

          1. cousinAdam

            So what?! Time is of the essence here! HFT leverages the advantage of ‘asymmetrical information’ in much the same way that the stock market is stacked in favor of investment banks and other savvy players. By the time that price is ‘discovered’ profits have been taken and ‘disappeared’ by the bean counters (who are undoubtedly well compensated for their thoroughness). A Glass-Steagall style separating of commercial and investment banking (preserving the sanctity of the FDIC as well) and a meaningful increase in the capital gains tax rates is a start – then a return to a more progressive income tax – a bitter pill (to the wealthy) but at least we have historical precedent to gain popular support (a “New Deal 2.0?) As a fan of the Kelton, Hudson, UMKC et al MMT crowd, I support the concept that taxes (only at the Federal level!) exist to ‘destroy currency’ and thereby reduce the money supply which has grown a ‘wee bit’ since QE opened the floodgates of speculation and obscene wealth creation. Can we put the genie back in the bottle? Tough odds imho – I think I’ll stay ‘long on pitchfork futures’.

    3. skippy

      Question is you are not taxing transfers of per se gold from the old barter mindset, attempting to tax that is hidden or will be more shadow due too it.

  3. block

    taxation should be removed entirely and property should be state only. you are a good citizen you get a lower renting rate.

  4. none

    We have a wealth tax on the middle class (homeowners) in the form of property tax, I thought.

    1. FreeMarketApologist

      For investment properties, a proper tax on the capital gain from the sale of the property could be achieved by repealing the “1031 exchange” loophole, which permits investing the proceeds from the initial sale into a similar property to avoid the capital gains (subject to a bunch of conditions and paperwork). Mom and pop investors will scream about this, but, capital gains are capital gains, no matter who realizes them.

    2. Pookah Harvey

      Essentially the property tax is a regressive wealth tax. The largest portion of the wealth portfolio for an “average ” person is their home if they are lucky enough to afford one. The property tax is the only wealth tax we have. What portion of Bill Gates portfolio is in property? I don’t know for sure but a guess is not a great deal of his total wealth. In other words a home owner pays a much larger percentage of his income on a wealth tax than does Bill Gates.
      On top of that remember if you have a mortgage you are also paying the wealth tax for the wealth that the bank actually owns.
      And as for financial transaction taxes, when real people have a real transaction they pay a sales tax and real transactions account for most of their income.
      To paraphrase Leona Helmsley: ‘Only little people pay (wealth or financial transaction) taxes’

  5. YuShan

    Progressive corporation tax is something that ought to be investigated seriously.

    One of the biggest problems in the economy nowadays is monopolies that can dictate prices due to lack of competition. And lack of competition also stifles innovation, which eventually leads to less growth. So we really need to have better anti-trust laws (and/or better enforcement). But in addition to that, perhaps we can achieve some of that with progressive corporation tax too.

    Right now, from corporation’s perspective bigger is always better, so you eventually end up with a monopoly (and therefore rent seeking/feudalism). Progressive corporation tax could create an environment with more but smaller companies, and therefore more healthy competition and innovation, leading to better growth outcomes.

    It’s probably difficult to implement in the current globalised world, but imo worth exploring.

    1. redleg

      Throw out corporate income tax altogether in return for a progressive income tax that treats any income as income. None of this “capital gains” or carried interest BS. Any corporation would just raise prices to offset that tax. Individuals, even billionaires, can’t do that.

      1. TomDority

        True – Any corporation would just raise prices to offset that tax – because it is ultimately the consumer that pays the tax on a corporation producing actual widgets – Seeing that all speculative income does not produce actual widgets – then a high tax – any amount – say 90% would not impede or come out of the consumers pocket to pay those taxes.
        You know all those apps, software operating systems, facebook et al is just a recording sold in hundreds of millions of copies – just the media changes
        Like – why do I need 5g on my phone – all that power with zero add to my daily existence – the only thing is, if I don’t keep up with the (maybe not now the latest) working information and computing exchange device …. well soon – I will be excluded from that information and exchange environment – Given that the financial geniuses have not figured out how to make a buck on things that actually work at a human level – they come up with endless ways to force you into/onto a platform (like forced to listening to elevator music all day) that you need to stay alive and operate — thus the push to all digital currencies and laws to keep you inside the fences. Really Orwellian

  6. JR

    In the US, I think we are still waiting for the Supreme Court to publish its decision in the Moore case, a case that asks the question of whether the US income tax requires realization. See for some background.

    In my view, seeking to tax wealth appreciation is a waste of time and bad policy to boot. If Moore holds that realization is a requirement, then, hopefully, the efforts to tax wealth will come to an end. I have said this here before, but there are so many other items that tax reformers can more productively focus on, like:

    *Eliminating the long-term capital gain preference for taxpayers with income over $400,000 per year (a Biden proposal);
    *Taxing stock buybacks;
    *Instituting a financial transactions (a/k/a Tobin) tax;
    *Eliminating carried interest provisions that provide hedge funds with favorable tax rates;
    *Reversing full expensing of capital goods and reining in accelerated depreciation (fully expensing capital goods and accelerating depreciation exempts normalized income earned by capital goods – like robots – from tax);
    *Strengthening the appreciated financial position and sale or exchange provisions;
    *Eliminating or reducing basis step-ups for appreciated property upon death;
    *Eliminating the qualified business income provisions of section 199A;
    *Minimizing tax deductions for asset-stripping acquisitions by hedge funds and others;
    *Eliminating the foreign-derived intangible income regime;
    *Revising the global intangible low-taxed income regime;
    *Revising the base erosion anti-abuse tax regime;
    *Revising the sourcing rules for sales or exchanges of inventory property; and
    *Strengthening the tax whistleblower function.

    Now, whether the UniParty would ever do anything along these lines…who knows…

    1. Neutrino

      Identify and eliminate the paths to those wealth-shielding on- and off-shore havens, like the US, Channel Islands, Caribbean etc. There is only so much that domestic tax policies can accomplish when there are ready escape hatches for those who benefit from, and exploit access to and use of, flight capital.

  7. Another Scott

    How about putting excise taxes on goods and services that the wealthy buy? I’m thinking things like private jets and yachts. This would be easier to identify and value than a more nebulous concept of wealth. But even now, I’m seeing the potential loopholes (and the rich will exploit them) and problems. All of these goods need to be defined? What if they are bought in other countries? Are they taxed on resale?

    Perhaps some or all such taxes are impractical, but I think the way to go is to tax things that disproportionately effect the wealthy. I see some suggestions in the article and the comments that are steps in the right direction.

    1. scott s.

      They already did this while I lived in Annapolis and it had a major negative impact on the boating industry there. Some might have been exaggerated but I don’t think it was a trivial impact.

  8. Barnes

    In order to reduce the ginormous potential for loopholes it would be necessary to make clear, clean, simple cuts at a precise point in time, which is why I’d prefer a very strict inheritance tax.
    Anything above a certain threshold belongs to the government, preferably, in the shape of funds for spending on future goods and services in line with the goal of surviving ecosystem destruction and climate change etc.
    Endowments etc before “departure” to children or other beneficiaries have to be curtailed massively ofc.
    Productive capital should be sold to workers with the right of first refusal.
    Tax havens must be convinced to not play one nation against another by international cooperation.

    We better be future proofing our societies through aligning long term interests of capital holders (*hoarders* cough) and the general public.
    I don’t believe that current tax systems are all that reformable. We need a clean slate approach – internationally.

  9. notabanker

    All of this is interesting discussion, but I am still trying to square it with nothing will fundamentally change. It seems to me if anything does, it will be further squeezing of the “middle” with any real wealth tax nothing more than a token sound bite.

    See prescription drug negotiations.

  10. Matthew G. Saroff

    What about a tax levied on the payer rather than the income. (Same money, different side of the transaction) It could be set up to cover things like dividends, and it is much harder to evade.

  11. spud

    the big loophole is free trade. the rich will just transfer via all sorts of schemes, profits through low tax countries.

    and if anyone thinks the rich will sit by and be taxed on stock activity, they will just move the stock markets, commodity markets, etc. off shore.

    a lack of sovereignty and control of ones borders, leaves a country with only one option, go after those who cannot move offshore.

    that is why when biden enlarged the enforcement of the IRS, with the false premise that he was going after the rich, i said it will not be that way, they will go after those whom can least afford it. i hear tax refunds are down, how far? i do not know. but it points to the fact that the rich were hardly touched.

    offshore tax havens are a direct result of free trade: the pathology of free trade is being exposed

    Today’s global rich are increasingly stateless, detaching their money from nation states and conventional representations of ownership to hide and preserve it. A global oligarchy is growing — and it does not bode well for everyone else and the planet.

    free trade enables the plundering of the wealth of nations, especially hurting the world’s most poor and vulnerable populations. It allows wealthy individuals and corporations to dodge and evade their tax responsibilities, shifting obligations onto those with fewer resources. It empowers criminals, deadbeats, and kleptocrats

    in 1983 there were only 15 billionaires in the u.s.a., under bill clintons free trade, billionaires have ballooned into more than 615, and under free trade, this is happening globally

    The costs of a secretive ‘wealth defense industry’ of shell companies, offshore tax havens, and empty luxury condos
    When oligarchs and ultra-wealthy around the world game the system to hide riches in Boston and other cities, everyone else pays.
    By Chuck CollinsUpdated April 1, 2021, 11:55 a.m…

    1. redleg

      When Minnesota raised the marginal tax rate on the top income to the highest in the USA (or close to it) back in the Dayton governorship, very few of those people moved away. Most people live somewhere because they like it or have a connection to the place, and moving is not an easy undertaking even if one has limitless resources to work with.

      1. spud

        they do not have to move. what they move is their ill gotten gains. as long as we have no sovereignty over our borders. in the end, we will get a vat tax instead of doing away with free trade, and the rich can look like middle class citizens, with billions sitting somewhere safe off shore, heck, they even transfer profits from where they are made, to countries that are tax friendly.

        once we get a vat tax, then perhaps people will be shocked enough to take sovereignty seriously.

      2. spud

        i applauded dayton, and voted for him repeatedly. but most of the people the state of minnesota taxed, were small fry compared to the people who are really at the bottom of this mess.

        “Here’s how bad it has become: In the early 1980s, Forbes magazine started its infamous list of the 400 wealthiest individuals in the United States. In 1983, there were only 15 billionaires on the list, and the total combined net worth of the richest 400 people was $118 billion. In March 2021, there were more than 650 US billionaires, holding combined assets exceeding $4.2 trillion. In contrast, the bottom half of all US households — 165 million people — have a combined wealth of $2.4 trillion. This is because the bottom fifth of US households have zero or negative net worth, and the next fifth have so few assets they live in fear of destitution. ”

        and the huge increase in billionaires in the u.s.a., came after 1993 and coincided with the initiation of free trade under bill clinton, coincidence, i think not.

        i think today, there are well over 2000 billionaires world wide. many of them practically stateless, owe allegiance to no one, have multiple citizenship’s.

        the E.U. tried to tax them it failed, we tried to tax them, it went no where. was it corruption, yep, but the corruption is caused by billionaires who have their tentacles deeply all over the world.

        of course because of this, they affect policy all over the world, because they are free to operate all over the world, tax free, regulation free, no sovereignty getting into the way because of free trade.

        “Not only is the wealth of the superrich wedded to highly extractive activities, many billionaires hold significant stakes in the world’s largest corporations, which grants them power and influence over their conduct.”

  12. Jean Gingras

    Not bringing up how world governments tolerate tax havens and then give as a reason for not establishing a wealth tax the idea that billionaires can hide their money and assets there is a bit rich.
    Similarly. I don’t see how difficulties with valuating their toys should be a problem. Most of their wealth is likely elsewhere anyway.
    Lastly. I assume the starting point of valuations are based on self reporting. Discouraging ‘errors’ with steep fines might also be considered.
    I see a wealth tax as a minimum tax. Billionaires already paying 2 pct. or more of their wealth should not have to pay extra.
    Very steep inheritance taxes on large inheritances should also be considered if we want the meritocracy to perdure.
    BTW. 2 % of one billion is 20 million. It might be complicated, but I think you could hire a very competent team for a fraction of that amount.

  13. Dessa

    I’ll leave the numbers up to the experts. But if it’s about justice, arrest them and seize their wealth.

  14. Lefty Godot

    “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” As in, use it to invade Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Channel Islands, heck, even Zurich! Why are we bothering with Syria, Libya, Iraq, etc., when the billionaires hide their stolen wealth in tax havens?

    I favor the Willie Sutton theory of taxation.

    1. MFB

      Read Bruce Sterling’s ISLANDS IN THE NET which offers speculative support for this.

  15. Susan the other

    We should make social benefits a cost of doing business. Wouldn’t that automatically balance out the inflationary aspects from making obscene profits in the first place? Actually that should include environmental benefits. I think instead of aspiring to an archaic industrial social contract, or pretending to it, we should have Nature’s Rights as well as human rights which establish effective ecology standards for it all. And instead of taxing after the fact we should normalize spending to achieve it in the first place because approaching it directly makes the case for whatever the cost of a business license is at any given time. How would that be avoided? A business license haven would not work (it would destroy itself) because massive black marketeering, inflation and pollution and inequality which is proven out in our system every day. That’s why bitcoin is so dangerous. If we are going to have our electronic money revolution it needs to be used for the right things.

  16. scott s.

    I’ve seen the Warren analysis that claims the 16th Amendment has turned every tax into an income tax that doesn’t have to be apportioned, but I’m not buying the argument that the 16th was intended to limit direct taxes to simply a head tax.

    We did have wartime direct taxes in the 1800s that functioned as property taxes but it was inefficient as it required assessors all across the country. Recall that R E Lee’s family lost Arlington via the direct tax (his descendants did later win it back in court, though by then it had become a cemetery, freedmens’ settlement, etc.)

  17. seabos84

    Is it possible to do something new?
    I.) let’s look at what it costs someone per hour for RichPigWelfare or community investment.
    A.1.) For example, I live in Seattle and it costs my wife and I about 100 cents an hour (40*52*2) for local and state school taxes.
    2.) what is the cost in the community of NOT having 1 million kids in school … ??
    3.) people like Gate$ and Bezo$ pay what per hour … ??
    In our crap tax system, it sure isn’t close to their benefit from having a million kids learning to be citizens / NOT being immature parents living in crime ridden wretchedness.
    B.1.) It costs our household 2 cents an hour for 1 of the park taxes. I have a great park near my house & it would NOT be great if there weren’t the other 400+ parks in the city for 700k residents.
    II.A.) how about charging the Exalteds, Bezo$ & Gate$ … & their para$ite lawyer$ $5000 PER HOUR for community members to figure out how much the Exalteds are COSTING us?
    And then fining them 100 times the yearly cost to the community!
    The more complicated the rules, the more money for the community!
    B.) LOMG – CHARGE those from the top 5% in wealth for the time it takes to detail how much they’ve ripped off from the community?

  18. Victor Sciamarelli

    There are some very informed comments on this interesting article. Yet, on the politics side of this is, imo, a fundamental question to resolve: Does the US have a spending problem or a revenue problem? Both political parties and the wealthy have doubled down on the former and most ordinary Americans on the latter.
    Moreover, you have to speculate whether either party can be reformed or pressured to seek a revenue solution. They even ignore evidence that M4A would reduce spending as it does in other countries.
    Trump’s tax cuts are due to expire in 2025. But will Biden let them expire or, if possible, preserve the tiny middle class cuts? Or like Obama made the Bush tax cuts permanent, Biden will do likewise.

  19. Felix_47

    All these ideas are great and could be considered if the populace voted (taxing everyone, the poor included, might wake them up and a civics exam might cut out those who should not vote like Alzheimers patients in a nursing home or the mentally disabled where I work or the functionally illiterate), the Bernaysian propaganda stopped, government corruption was controlled Singapore and China style as outlined by Lee Kwan Yew. It would require some authoritarianism but if Americans want to have a first world country like Singapore and now China (which is following the Singapore model) they would have to give some things up….. With the current low voting participation rates and the functional illiteracy of masses of Americans elections are just a strategy game that have nothing to do with how the nation is taxed or managed as many studies have shown. We have a laissez faire system with an open border and the underclass bought off just enough to prevent a revolution as opposed to a true social safety net. Too bad….too sad.

  20. JD

    I’ve never quite understood this argument. What proportion of the wealth of the very rich is actually hard to measure? Isn’t most of it stocks, bonds, privately held businesses, and similarly transparent assets? If we can audit capital gains on this stuff then surely we can audit the capital itself. Sure, they will always go to great lengths to hide it, but that holds for gains as well as assets: hiding an asset behind a bunch of shells also hides the gains. So it seems like (a) most assets are readily visible, and (b) the trouble measuring assets is also a trouble measuring gains from those assets. So why not tax both income and wealth for the large proportion of assets that we can in fact measure and value?

    1. Angie Neer

      The reason we can tax capital gains is because they involve an actual sale—the transaction defines the value. But the value of a privately held business that has not changed hands recently is notoriously difficult to pin down. Similarly with high-value real estate. Just look at the shenanigans around the valuation of Trump’s real estate, which I think are unusual only in that they were the subject of a public trial.

      1. john

        As long as the tax authority files an annual lien on the assets in the form of a percent, then when the asset transacts there may be by then an x% lien, which would be paid out of proceeds. No appraisals, no lawyers, nothing. Due on sale.

  21. Adam Stephen "Æ" Wadley

    Does anyone here think about abolishing money? I don’t quite understand what the point of raising “money” is, when it’s completely artificial. Couldn’t we just abolish debts, and even money itself? Obviously it’s complicated, but I would think that would be something which would be on more and more people’s minds at this time.

    Curious if anyone is doing serious work on post-money economics yet.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No. Even ancient societies had debt, which preceded money. There would be categories of obligations, like a sheep is worth more than a chicken, and ways to settle them.

  22. Expat2uruguay

    I recently became a landlord here in Uruguay and there are companies that act as middleman between the landlords and the tenants. They insure the rent for the landlord, penalize the tenants if they do not pay and charge their fees to the tenants.. They also take a percentage from the rent. Then they take another percentage for the state, which is the income tax on the rent collected. The property management company takes it right out of the rent and pays directly to the government. I never do anything. Pretty cool.

Comments are closed.