Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Flat Tax Is Picking Up Steam in Italy

Your friendly proprietor recently returned from a trip to Italy (December 9-13, 2014) where he met with leading Italian politicians and participated in a standing room only conference on the benefits of a 15% flat tax on personal and business income for Italy.

Armando Siri, president and founder of the New Italian Party (PIN in Italian), first introduced the 15% flat tax to the Italian public.  He contacted me by email and asked me to review his flat tax proposal in early 2014.  I endorsed it as a pro-growth measure that would help jump-start the moribund Italian economy.  He invited me to join him at a conference in Milan on April 6, 2014, to launch the plan.  About 150 enthusiastic supporters of Siri, many PIN members, attended the event.

From that event, interest in PIN’s 15% flat tax steadily grew.  In December 2014, PIN’s 15% flat tax was endorsed by Matteo Salvini, secretary of the Northern League Party (LN in Italian).  They jointly held a major conference in Milan on December 13, 2014.  They invited me to participate in the program.  I presented a set of slides documenting the need for comprehensive tax reform in Italy and why PIN-LN’s 15% flat tax was good for Italy.  Click here for my full 26 minute presentation.

A standing room crowd of 500, numerous television stations, and reporters from Italy’s leading media attended.  It was a feeding frenzy.  LN streamed the event live on its web site. Three television clips can be found here, here, and here

Matteo Salvini is currently the most popular center-right politician in Italy, closely followed by President Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (click here) which he formerly led, but in which he still remains extremely influential.  The three parties (PIN, LN, FI) constitute the core of the center-right bloc.  Were it to win the next general election, or a snap election perhaps as early as May 2015 if a no-confidence vote  brings down the current center-left government of Matteo Renzi, Salvini would be in line to become Italy’s next prime minister and introduce a 15% flat tax.

Two days earlier in Rome, Armando Siri and I met with President Berlusconi and several of his closest advisers to discuss the flat tax. On December 5, 2014, Berlusconi had announced on You Tube his support for a 20% flat tax, a higher rate than the PIN-LN plan because Berlusconi’s plan has a narrower tax base due to a larger personal allowance (click here).  The two plans differ only in respect of the scope of the personal allowance and the flat rate.  I presented him with a signed copy of the Italian edition of “The Flat Tax” (published by the European Center for Austrian Economics Foundation in Liechtenstein through the good offices of Kurt R. Leube).  For the moment, Berlusconi stands behind his 20% flat tax for the political purpose of retaining a separate identity.  The two plans rest on common ground.  Should the center-right bloc win the next election, the differences between the two plans are easily reconcilable.

I prefer PIN-LN’s 15% plan to Berlusconi’s 20% plan because the lower 15% rate will have a greater impact on incentives to take risks and reduce underground economic activity and tax evasion.

The New Year could be exciting for flat-tax enthusiasts in Western Europe’s fourth-largest economy.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Alvin Rabushka presents the Flat Tax at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, November 19, 2014

Click here to watch a 45 minute presentation on why the Flat Tax is good for Britain.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Italy Party Proposes 15% Flat-Rate Income Tax to Jump Start the Italian Economy

The Italian economy is in terrible shape.  Overall unemployment is 15% of the labor force; youth unemployment (15-24 years of age) stands at 42%.  University graduates cannot find jobs in their fields of study; many are forced to live at home with their parents in crowded apartments.  Manufacturing has contracted 25% since 2007.  Apartments stand empty.  Public debt exceeds 130% of GDP.  Italy’s confiscatory income tax discourages work, saving, investment, and entrepreneurship.  It breeds corruption, tax avoidance, tax evasion, and fosters export of both human and financial capital.

A relatively new, youth-oriented political party aims to bring hope and change to Italy’s economy.  On April 6, 2014, in Milan, the New Italy Party (Partito Italia Nuovo, or PIN) held an international conference to present its proposal for a 15% flat tax, which would replace Italy’s current system of steeply-graduated personal income taxes for wage earners and small business owners, and also corporate income taxes.  Before a large audience, Party President Armando Siri explained how Italy’s current income tax system impeded individuals and business enterprises, and how a 15% flat tax would restore Italy’s competitiveness.

I was privileged to attend the conference and endorse PIN’s 15% flat tax.  As co-author of “The Flat Tax,” I regard PIN’s 15% flat tax as an important step towards tax simplification and improving incentives for workers and entrepreneurs to improve their lives and businesses.

I encourage Italians from all walks of life to learn about PIN’s 15% flat tax and use social media to encourage their friends and neighbors to support this tax reform proposal as an important step to restoring Italy as a land of growth and opportunity.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Albania Abandons Its Flat Tax

On December 28, 2013, the Socialist majority in the Albanian Assembly, in power since September 2013, passed the 2014 budget on  a strict party-line vote.  The budget replaced the 10% flat tax on personal income with two higher rates.

The new personal income tax imposed two rates of 13% and 23%, after exempting the first 30,000 leks of income.  ($1 =102 leks)  The 13% rate applies to incomes between 30,000-130,000 leks, above which 23% is imposed.  The government claims that the higher rates only affect the top 3% of income earners, while those with wages under 130,000 leks will pay less than under the previous 10% flat tax.

Corporate profits tax was increased from 10% to 15%, with an exemption provided for small businesses.

Altogether the new taxes are projected to increase tax revenue by 18 billion leks ($176 million).

The tax increases were part and parcel of a deal with the International Monetary Fund that granted a 300 million euro loan to help stabilize Albania's public finances.  Albania is seeking membership in the European Union, which requires its meeting deficit reduction targets.

Albania is the third country in the past two years (Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 2012) to replace a flat tax with two rates

Monday, November 4, 2013

Greenland Has Adopted a 37% Flat Tax

Greenland , an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, applies a national flat-rate 37 % personal income tax on the worldwide income of its residents.  Its 18 municipalities also apply flat-rate taxes of their own, 5% in 7 and 8% in the other 11, bringing the overall flat rate to 42% and 45% respectively.  Individuals are granted a personal and basic allowance of DKK 58,000 before tax is assessed.  ($1 = DKK 5.52)  Per capita income is about US$37,000, thus the first $10,500 is exempted from tax.  Tax is assessed on both cash and income in kind.

Corporate tax on business profit is levied at a flat rate of 31.8% both on resident and non-resident companies.  Any subsequent distribution of dividends from previously retained earnings, which must be withheld by the enterprise, is taxed at the individual rate in the municipality in which it is registered, either at 42% or 45%.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

St. Helena Adopts a 25% Flat Tax

The British Overseas Territory of St. Helena adopted a 25% flat tax on both corporate and personal income effective April 1, 2012.  The Income Tax Ordinance 6 of 2012 replaced that of 2009, which consisted of two rates of 17% and 27%.  (St. Helena issues its own currency, which is set at par with British pounds sterling.)

Allowances were adjusted to prevent those in the previous 17% bracket from paying more in taxes than under the new 25% rate.  The 2009 law provided a personal allowance of 3,500 pounds that was deductible against charged income.  The 2012 ordinance increased the allowance to 7,000 pounds.

Capital gains are taxed at 10%.

The purpose of the 2012 reform was to increase the attractiveness of St. Helena as a place to invest in the wake of an airport scheduled to open in early 2016.  Previously, all physical contact with the island was through a weekly ship service to and from southern African ports.  The autonomous government of St. Helena plans to further reduce tax rates (and import duties).

South Ossetia Has Adopted a 12% Flat Tax

South Ossetia is an autonomous region in the South Caucasus, carved out of Georgia following military hostilities that ended in 2008.  Five countries recognize South Ossetia, which declared its independence in 1990.    Georgia considers South Ossetia to be under Russian occupation.

The tax rate for residents of South Ossetia is set at 12%.  (A higher rate of 30% applies to persons who are not residents of South Ossetia and Russia.)  Dividends are taxed at a lower rate of 6%.

The tax base is gross income minus the statutory monthly minimum wage and an allowance for children and dependents.