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Income, consumption, and wealth are all possible bases for a tax system in the United States. Scholars have specified the structure of income tax and consumption taxes, but no one has attempted to describe in detail a comprehensive wealth tax for the United States. In this paper, we begin to develop such a structure. In particular, we hypothesize that the combination of a flat rate tax on networth and a flat rate tax on earned income along with an appropriate level of exemptions, could be an attractive tax base. In order to explore the structure of a wealth tax, we first specify the base of the tax. Using the Federal Reserve Board?s Survey of Consumer Finances we then estimate the tax rates that would be needed to raise the same revenue as currently raised by the personal and corporate income tax. We find that rates of 1.57% on net worth and 17.7% on earned income would be required. We also explore the rates that would be required under alternative specifications of the base. Once we have specified the base and the rates, using the SCF data we are then able to explore the distribution of the tax by income class. We compare the distribution to the distribution of the current Federal income tax. We find that the wealth tax we describe is able to achieve the same level of progressivity over much of the income range.

Publication Title

Tax Law Review

Publication Citation

53 Tax L. Rev. 499 (2000)