Analyzing the taxation system - Part II

The post here may seem more or less directed towards some economics readers, yet I would like to share it as it may help some of the readers of mine. I know some readers might not like it, yet I am sharing it as I feel it is very important for all of us to know and learn something that is related to our country.This post is just a continuation of my previous post :Analyzing the taxation system - Part I.

As far as saving is concerned, taxation has a major role to play. A good taxation system should discourage excessive spending and encourage savings of the people. The saving decisions are said to be made by consumer, firm and government. And saving is expected to transfer income from workers to the capitalists and from the present to future generation (Sandmo, n.d).  Due to political transaction, Bhutan observed increased public expenditure on allocating public goods and services. People earned more by involving in such works but their decision to spend came as result of low tax rate for import of non-essential or luxury goods. The macroeconomic situation of Bhutan is not very impressive since recent years. The inflation rate has been very high and this has impacted the Balance of Payment of the country to a great extent. In the State of the Nation Report, (2013) the trade balance of negative 29 billion and national debt of nu. 96 billion was reported. Through this it is very imperative that saving and spending decisions from government or consumer is ambiguous. In such a situation, the government can make use of the tax to improve the market situation. For instance, to check the rapid surge in import, the government can increase the tax rates on non essential items. This way the tax is good by determining price of goods and services and also determining the saving and expenditure of both citizens and the government.

Tax collected from banks, factories, companies and organizations is major source of income to the government. The net collection during the year 2012-2013 amounts to Nu.15403.118 million, registering a growth of 5.0 percent or Nu.726.189 million over the previous year’s (2011-2012) collection of Nu.14, 676.929 million. The collections from both direct and indirect tax have shown an increase on the whole compared to the previous year. The direct tax recorded a growth of 4.5 percent over the previous year’s collection, while the indirect tax recorded a growth of 5.7 percent. Tax revenue forms 73.0 percent of the total revenue (Ministry of Finance, 2013).

The government uses this tax revenue for the provision of public goods and services. This is indeed a major role of a government in the society. There are certain goods and services which markets cannot provide. Such goods and services include national defense, health, education and other quasi-public goods and services such as roads, bridges, and etc. This should be provided by government because there is neither incentive nor anything for private citizens to voluntarily substitute the role of government. According to Musgrave & Musgrave, (2004) they said that this problem can’t be solved by merely sending a tax collector to consumers to whom the benefits of social goods accrue. On other hand these public goods are services are of no exception. To this end, taxes are of no exception either. Counter argument is if government’s provision of good and service through tax revenue is worth paying taxes. This is because people are usually frustrated at the quality of services provided by government. Wherein, citizens are rather reluctant in paying taxes to the government.

One of the major functions of taxes is distribution and redistribution of wealth and income. The redistribution are aimed at alleviating poverty and this welfare systems are said to be targeted to the most needy, withdrawn and special group of people in the society (FitzRoy & Jin, 2010). Redistribution of wealth and income is aimed at bringing equity in the society. Equity doesn’t mean suppressing rich or boosting the poor but by redistribution wealth and income are shared among the society. The equity function of a tax is said to be imposing tax in accordance with Ability to pay theory (Waidyasekera, n.d). The ability to pay theory as explained by Bhatia, (2006) says that tax liability takes its true form; compulsory payment to the state without quid pro quo. This approach as explained by author says that citizens pay taxes ‘just because he can’ and his share of burden to be determined by his relative paying capacity. Equity is either horizontal or vertical. Horizontal equity is treating equal tax of equal individuals and vertical equity is treating unequal tax for unequal individuals (Bagchi, 2005). According to Adam Smith’s cannon of equality a tax system should be progressive with progressive tax rates. In Bhutan tax paid by citizen is in accordance to Smith’s cannon of equality because rich people pays high tax while poor pays less (progressive nature of tax justified). However, due to no change in tax base for each unit of tax, it is seen more of proportional than progressive. And the taxes paid in this way are used to cater the need of the people who are poor and unemployed. Thus progressive nature of tax is used for redistribution of wealth and income to the disadvantage group.

Tax is used to intervene in market failure situation. Market fails because of externalities caused by market force while attempting to make profit. For example an industry pollutes environment while manufacturing certain goods. Industries don’t take into consideration the effects of pollution on third party. This adverse effect on the people who are not responsible for it is called externalities or spillover effect. Government should do something to reduce production externalities. Imposing high tax on industries can de-incentivize production of goods by particular industry thereby reducing externality. The price of the product will increase as a result of tax and in long run the demand for the product will be affected. To support it Zilberman, (1999) explained that Pareto optimum for competitive economy will not be achieved in presence of externalities, as individuals acting in their own self interest have no correct incentives to maximize total surplus. To tackle this problem or to internalize the externalities, governments impose tax as the policy action.

Tax and taxation policy is used as mechanism to counteract the cyclical fluctuation of the market economy. This policy is said to have its least effect during ‘Great Moderation’ period; a years between 1983 and 2007. And such situation is said to have replicated during 2007 to 2009 economic crisis during Obama administration (Listokin, 2009). The housing bubble of 2008 is a typical example: Up until the year 2008, the financial institutions and banks in the United States gave loans to investors at lower interest rates, and as a corollary of this, it experienced a housing boom. But in 2008, the housing boom culminated in a bust when house owners were no longer to repay loans as demand for housing decreased, resulting in lowered housing prices. Similarly, in recent years, Bhutan has been experiencing a housing boom as a result of low-interest loans given by financial institutions and banks to housing owners. So, there is fear among economic experts and policy makers that a housing burst is more than imminent; already, signs of a burst have displayed in recent times. Going by some of the media reports, there are complaints from house owners that they are not able to pay off those loans which were used for building houses, as housing prices have started to decline. Thus, in times of busts taxes can be used as a tool for economic stabilization.