Mosler has written and spoken many times about the dead loss costs of transaction taxes and the way they inhibit transactions (Mosler 2013):
A sales tax will inhibit transactions, as will an income tax. … Furthermore, transaction taxes offer large rewards for successful evasion, and therefore require powerful enforcement agencies and severe penalties. They also result in massive legal efforts to transact without being subject to the taxes as defined by the law. Add to this the cost of all of the record keeping necessary for compliance. All of these are real economic costs of transaction taxes.
As an alternative he puts forward a real estate tax.
A real estate tax is an interesting alternative. It is much easier to enforce, provides a more stable demand for government spending, and does not discourage transactions. It can be made progressive, if the democracy desires.
Wray has written the most about specific taxation measures (Wray 2015; Lane and Wray 2020; Mitchell, Wray, and Watts 2019). ‘Macroeconomics’ states:
Ideally, it is best if tax revenue moves countercyclically, increasing in an expansion and falling in a recession. That helps to make the government’s net contribution to the economy countercyclical, which helps to stabilise aggregate demand. In this case the fiscal outcome operates as an automatic stabiliser.
In Modern Money Theory Wray suggests a hut tax:
But what about the “hut tax”? Almost all of us need our home to live in. It is an exceedingly broad-based tax. It would drive the currency.
We can make the tax even more progressive: adopt a “cubic-foot-of living-space” tax. It will also tax the sinfulness of environmental impact (since there is a bigger volume to heat and cool).
And continues to suggest a progressive income tax:
… once an economy is largely monetized - where most must work to earn money tokens to buy the necessities of life - then an income tax will drive the currency.
… A progressive income tax helps to stabilize the value of the currency, since tax revenues will rise quickly in an expansion (as incomes are rising) and fall in a recession. This helps to impact aggregate spending as net income becomes somewhat more countercyclical. That reduces inflation pressures in an expansion, and attenuates deflation pressures in a downturn.
Wray, following Ruml and Minsky, considers the corporate income tax to be a bad tax:
Imputing corporate income to owners, and then taxing it through a progressive income tax, help to reduce the incentive to avoid taxes […]. Again, this has nothing to do with government’s need for revenues but rather with equity of the tax burden.
Whenever I am asked at conferences, “what should we do about corporations moving offshore to evade taxes”, I say “eliminate the corporate income tax”.
More recent work (Lane and Wray 2021) states:
To summarize, we believe the best strategy is to eliminate the corporate income tax and replace it with an annual personal tax on unrealized capital gains. The corporate tax is poorly designed for accomplishing the goals of reducing income and wealth inequality or reducing inflation pressure.
Quite a lot of Wray’s writing on taxation is influenced by the particular structure of the US tax system.
Mitchell has surprisingly little on the specifics of taxation given the mine of MMT information on his blog. He is wary of reading to much into Ruml (Mitchell 2021a; 2010b):
It should be noted before I proceed that Beardsley Ruml’s basic intention in this address was to make a case to reduce the “federal tax on corporate profits”, which he labelled “The Bad Tax”.
He called for this “evil tax” to be abolished and the functions of taxation noted above be achieved through taxes on individuals.
So while his agenda is not one that I would endorse, it doesn’t negate the resonance with MMT in this narrow sense.
He notes the limits of the MMT view on taxation (Mitchell 2021b):
MMT is not a ‘movement’, nor, is it a progressive agenda.
I keep reading things like “MMT advocates taxing the rich”.
What an understanding of MMT will allow one to conclude is that there is no contingency between the provision of public services or infrastructure by government and tax revenue it might receive from high income or wealth individuals.
MMT also provides a coherent aggregate explanation about the role of taxation in fiscal policy, which excludes any causal association between the government receiving tax revenue and spending.
That is it.
MMT is agnostic about where the tax revenue comes from.
The body of knowledge does not cover questions of incidence, progression or regression and all the other facets of taxation policy and structure that experts in that field are interested in.
When I talk about the need to ‘tax the rich’, I am expressing a value system, which is quite separate from when I am teaching the principles of MMT.
A two part blog discussed the land value tax (LVT) (Mitchell 2015a; 2015b):
However, once you understand MMT, you realise that the discussion of the design of the tax system is quite different than just raising income from the most ‘efficient’ means. The Georgists would do well to come to terms with that and demonstrate how a land value tax (LVT) would work to free up real resources to give the real space for governments to spend. There doesn’t appear to be any analysis provided by Georgists to calibrate the impacts on non-government spending of such a tax and how this would alter the tax mix required to maintain full employment spending levels and satisfy the socio-economic spending goals of government. There are other things that might be done as well (if not prior to imposing a LVT) which would reduce the likelihood of property price bubbles. Finally, the obsession with the single LVT as a saviour is in denial of the causes of recessions and the role that financial capital plays in destabilising economic systems. A LVT alone will do little to resolve those problems.
Financial transaction taxes are seen as small beer and insufficient to address the problem (Mitchell 2009; 2010a):
The other question that is begged by the discussions about the Tobin Tax is: why do we want to allow these destabilising financial flows anyway? If they are not facilitating the production and movement of real goods and services what public purpose do they serve?
I don’t see any public purpose being served by allowing these trades to occur even if the imposition of the Tobin Tax (or something like it) might deter some of the volatility in exchange rates.
Solution: All governments should sign an agreement which would make all financial transactions that cannot be shown to facilitate trade in real goods and services illegal. Simple as that. Speculative attacks on a nation’s currency would be judged in the same way as an armed invasion of the country – illegal.
This would smooth out the volatility in currencies and allow fiscal policy to pursue full employment and price stability without the destabilising external sector transactions.
Mitchell’s writing about taxation usually sticks to the high level (in keeping with other MMT academic economists: Stephanie Kelton, Pavlina Tcherneva, Scott Fullwiler, Dirk Ehnts, Eric Tymoigne and Fadhel Kaboub, with apologies if I’ve missed anybody). In Macroeconomics alongside Wray and Watts (Mitchell, Wray, and Watts 2019):
We can think of the effect of imposing taxes as creating unemployed resources (including labour). Government spending then puts those resources to use in the public sphere. It would make no sense for government to impose taxes, causing unemployment, except to the extent that it needs to release resources from private use so that they can be employed in the public sector.
- Lane, Edward, and L. Randall Wray. 2020. ‘Is It Time to Eliminate Federal Corporate Income Taxes?’ SSRN Electronic Journal, November. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3734445.
- Lane, Edward, and L Randall Wray. 2021. ‘Why President Biden Should Eliminate Corporate Taxes To Build Back Better’, June, 5.
- Mitchell, William. 2009. ‘A Global Financial Tax?’ Bill Mitchell - Modern Monetary Theory (blog). 9 November 2009. http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=5932.
- ———. 2010a. ‘Robin Hood Was a Thief Not a Saviour’. Bill Mitchell - Modern Monetary Theory (blog). 1 April 2010. http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=9006.
- ———. 2010b. ‘Taxpayers Do Not Fund Anything’. Bill Mitchell - Modern Monetary Theory (blog). 19 April 2010. http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=9281.
- ———. 2015a. ‘Henry George and MMT – Part 1’. Bill Mitchell - Modern Monetary Theory (blog). 17 February 2015. http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=30215.
- ———. 2015b. ‘Henry George and MMT – Part 2’. Bill Mitchell - Modern Monetary Theory (blog). 18 February 2015. http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=30219.
- ———. 2021a. ‘Reading Beardsley Ruml Carefully’. Bill Mitchell - Modern Monetary Theory (blog). 19 July 2021. http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=47935.
- ———. 2021b. ‘Booming Growth in Britain (Brexit?) But Child Poverty Rises (Austerity)’. Bill Mitchell - Modern Monetary Theory (blog). 29 July 2021. http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=47987.
- Mitchell, William, L. Randall Wray, and Martin Watts. 2019. Macroeconomics. Macmillan Education UK.
- Mosler, Warren. 2013. Soft Currency Economics II. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
- Wray, L. Randall. 2015. Modern Money Theory: A Primer on Macroeconomics for Sovereign Monetary Systems. 2nd edition. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.