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Criticisms on VAT PDF Print E-mail
Written by Cecilia Chee, Singapore   
Monday, 03 October 2011 13:10



Criticisms onValue Added Tax System (VAT)


The "value-added tax" has been criticized as the burden of it relies on personal end-consumers of products. Some critics consider it to be aregressive tax, meaning the poor pay more, as a percentage of their income, than the rich. Defenders argue that excising taxation through income is an arbitrary standard, and that the value-added tax is in fact a proportional tax in that people with higher income pay more at the same rate that they consume more. The effective progressiveness or regressiveness of a VAT system can also be affected when different classes of goods are taxed at different rates. To maintain the progressive nature of total taxes on individuals, countries implementing VAT have reduced income tax on lower income-earners, as well as instituted direct transfer payments to lower-income groups, resulting in lower tax burdens on the poor.

Revenues from a value added tax are frequently lower than expected because they are difficult and costly to administer and collect. In many countries, however, where collection of personal income taxes and corporate profit taxes has been historically weak, VAT collection has been more successful than other types of taxes. VAT has become more important in many jurisdictions as tariff levels have fallen worldwide due to trade liberalization, as VAT has essentially replaced lost tariff revenues. Whether the costs and distortions of value added taxes are lower than the economic inefficiencies and enforcement issues (e.g. smuggling) from high import tariffs is debated, but theory suggests value added taxes are far more efficient.

Certain industries (small-scale services, for example) tend to have more VAT avoidance, particularly where cash transactions predominate, and VAT may be criticized for encouraging this. From the perspective of government, however, VAT may be preferable because it captures at least some of the value-added. For example, a carpenter may offer to provide services for cash (i.e. without a receipt, and without VAT) to a homeowner, who usually cannot claim input VAT back. The homeowner will hence bear lower costs and the carpenter may be able to avoid other taxes (profit or payroll taxes). The government, however, may still receive VAT for various other inputs (lumber, paint, gasoline, tools, etc.) sold to the carpenter, who would be unable to reclaim the VAT on these inputs (unless of course the carpenter also has at least some jobs done with receipt, and claims all purchased inputs to go to those jobs). While the total tax receipts may be lower compared to full compliance, it may not be lower than under other feasible taxation systems.

Because exports are generally zero-rated (and VAT refunded or offset against other taxes), this is often where VAT fraud occurs. In Europe, the main source of problems is called carousel fraud. Large quantities of valuable goods (often microchips or mobile phones) are transported from one member state to another. During these transactions, some companies owe VAT, others acquire a right to reclaim VAT. The first companies, called 'missing traders' go bankrupt without paying. The second group of companies can 'pump' money straight out of the national treasuries. This kind of fraud originated in the 1970s in the Benelux-countries. Today, the British treasury is a large victim.There are also similar fraud possibilities inside a country. To avoid this, in some countries like Sweden, the major owner of a limited company is personally responsible for taxes. This is circumvented by having an unemployed person without assets as the formal owner.

Under a sales tax system, only businesses selling to the end-user are required to collect tax, and bear the accounting cost of collecting the tax. Under VAT, however, manufacturers and wholesale companies also have to hire accountants and incur accounting expenses to handle the additional paperwork required for collecting VAT, increasing overhead costs that in turn get incorporated into the cost of the item, possibly creating a cascading effect of higher prices throughout the chain of production. Manufacturers and wholesalers have a choice of retaining less profits overall, or passing on the additional cost to their customers in the form of increased prices.

Last Updated on Monday, 03 October 2011 13:26
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