January 29, 2016 by Dan Mitchell
There is some very good news to share. The income tax will disappear in April.
But there’s also some bad news. The income tax is only being abolished in the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, and there’s little reason to think that America’s awful internal revenue code will disappear anytime soon.
Nonetheless, we should celebrate this development because it shows that fiscal mistakes can be reversed.
A report from Caribbean News Now has some of the highlights.
The people of Antigua and Barbuda will from April receive tax relief when the government plans to abolish personal income tax (PIT). PIT, introduced by the now opposition United Progressive Party upon coming into office in 2004, imposes a tax of 8% on residents earning an income above $3,500 and 15% on those earning an income above $25,000. …Prime Minister Gaston Browne…noted that previous Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party administrations governed Antigua and Barbuda successfully for 27 years without personal income tax. He said that the cost of collecting PIT, the difficulty of enforcement, and its unfairness, make it sensible to remove the PIT from the books.
Wow, the Antigua and Barbuda version of the Labour Party obviously is much better than the crazed British version.
But let’s not get sidetracked. Here are some additional details from a story in the Jamaica Observer.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne yesterday announced that, effective April, personal income tax will be abolished in its entirety. …”Abolishing personal income tax is an important reform. Not only will it put more money in the pockets of the people, so that they can save or spend more for the benefit of the economy as whole, it will help to re-establish our country as one of the most competitive in the Caribbean and beyond.” …He noted that with this move, Antigua and Barbuda will be a location that is competitive and also the choice of retirees. “Antigua and Barbuda will become a competitive location to attract the headquarters of companies and for professionals to relocate, thereby creating more jobs. Retirees will choose Antigua and Barbuda as their retirement home; Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) investors will invest and choose Antigua and Barbuda over our competitors,” said the prime minister. …”taxing income is destructive to investment, savings and consumption. Also, it penalises entrepreneurship.”
For a politician, Mr. Browne has a good understanding of economics. I don’t like the “money in the pockets” rhetoric because it implies a bit of Keynesianism, but everything else he said is based on solid, microeconomic observations about incentives. Very reminiscent of JFK.
And I also like his point about wanting to be a “competitive location.” Yet another example of why tax competition is such a wonderful force for good policy. It encourages governments to do the right thing even when they don’t want to.
I bet, for instance, that the good reform in Antigua and Barbuda will put an end to the suicidal talk of an income tax in the Cayman Islands.
But what about the United States? Is there any chance that good policy in the Caribbean will encourage tax reform in the United States?
Unfortunately, most politicians couldn’t find Antigua and Barbuda on a map, much less care about that nation’s fiscal policy. So I’m not holding my breath that we’ll reverse the horrid mistake that was made in 1913.
But maybe, just maybe, we can at least figure out a less corrupt and less destructive way for the politicians to grab our money.
P.S. Antigua and Barbuda is a beautiful place, but I’ve noted before that government always has the ability to turn Heaven into Hell.
P.P.S. By the way, because of our awful worldwide tax system, American citizens can’t move to Antigua and Barbuda and benefit from that nation’s good tax policy. But there is a Caribbean island where you can legally slash your tax burden.
P.P.P.S. For those who follow Caribbean tax policy, we also enjoyed a fiscal victory a few years ago when a value-added tax was rejected in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
P.P.P.P.S. On an unrelated topic, I want to augment my observations on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, by citing some very important analysis by Reason‘s Shikha Dalmia. While a wasteful and incompetent local government caused the mess, she explains that state officials deserve some blame because they wanted to “create jobs” with an infrastructure project instead of accepting a good water deal from Detroit.
…the debacle is the result of Snyder’s efforts to stimulate the local economy—the exact opposite of the liberal line. …the then DWSD Director Susan McCormick presented two alternatives to Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz that slashed rates for Flint by nearly 50 percent, something that made Detroit far more competitive compared to the KWA deal. …Genesee County and Flint authorities saw the new water treatment as a public infrastructure project to create jobs… And neither Snyder nor his Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz nor the state treasurer Andy Dillon had the heart to say “no,” especially since to hand Flint to DWSD would have made the whole project less viable. …the Flint water crisis is the result of a Keynesian stimulus project gone wrong.
Hmmm…, statists make silly claims about terrorism being caused by climate change or inequality. Maybe I can be equally silly and now argue that stimulus schemes cause poisonous water!