FairTax is a proposal to reform the federal tax code of the United States. It would replace all federal income taxes (including the alternative minimum tax, corporate income taxes, and capital gains taxes), payroll taxes (including Social Security and Medicare taxes), gift taxes, and estate taxes with a single broad national S. 18) would apply a tax, once, at the point of purchase on all new goods and services for personal consumption. The proposal also calls for a monthly payment to all family households of lawful U.S. residents as an advance rebate, or "prebate", of tax on purchases up to the poverty level.[1][2] First introduced into the United States Congress in 1999, a number of congressional committees have heard testimony on the bill; however, it has not moved from committee and has yet to have any effect on the tax system. In 2005, a tax reform movement began to form behind the FairTax proposal.[3] Attention increased after talk radio personality Neal Boortz and Georgia Congressman John Linder published The FairTax Book in 2005 and additional visibility was gained in the 2008 presidential campaign.

As defined in the proposed legislation, the tax rate is 23% for the first year. This percentage is a tax inclusive rate based on the total amount paid including the tax ($23 out of every $100 spent in total). This would be equivalent to a tax exclusive 30% traditional U.S. sales tax ($23 on top of every $77 spent—$100 total).[4] The rate would automatically adjust annually based on federal receipts in the previous fiscal year.[5] With the rebate taken into consideration, the FairTax would be progressive on consumption,[2] but would also be regressive on income at higher income levels (as consumption falls as a percentage of income).[6][7] Opponents argue this would accordingly decrease the tax burden on high-income earners and increase it on the middle class.[4][8] Supporters contend that the plan would effectively tax wealth, increase purchasing power[9][10] and decrease tax burdens by broadening the tax base.

The plan's supporters state that a consumption tax would increase savings and investment, ease tax compliance and increase economic growth, increase incentives for international business to locate in the US and increase US competitiveness in international trade.[11][12][13] The plan is intended to increase cost transparency for funding the federal government. Supporters believe it would increase civil liberties, benefit the environment and effectively tax illegal activity and undocumented immigrants.[11][14] Opponents contend that a consumption tax of this size would be extremely difficult to collect, and would lead to pervasive tax evasion.[4][6] They also argue that the proposed sales tax rate would raise less revenue than the current tax system, leading to an increased budget deficit.[4][15] Other concerns include the proposed repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, removal of tax deduction incentives, transition effects on after-tax savings, incentives on credit use and the loss of tax advantages to state and local bonds.

Legislative overview and history

Rep John Linder holding the 133 page Fair Tax Act of 2007 in contrast to the then-current U.S. tax code and IRS regulations.

The legislation would remove the Internal Revenue Service (after three years), and establish Excise Tax and Sales Tax bureaus in the Department of the Treasury.[16] The states are granted the primary authority for the collection of sales tax revenues and the remittance of such revenues to the Treasury. The plan was created by Americans For Fair Taxation, an advocacy group formed to change the tax system. The group states that, together with economists, it developed the plan and the name "Fair Tax", based on interviews, polls, and focus groups of the general public.[4] The FairTax legislation has been introduced in the House by Georgia Republicans John Linder (1999–2010) and Rob Woodall (2011–2014),[17] while being introduced in the Senate by Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss (2003–2014).

Linder first introduced the Fair Tax Act (H.R. 2525) on July 14, 1999, to the 106th United States Congress and a substantially similar bill has been reintroduced in each subsequent session of Congress. The bill attracted a total of 56 House and Senate cosponsors in the 108th Congress,[18][19] 61 in the 109th,[20][21] 76 in the 110th,[22][23] 70 in the 111th,[24][25] 78 in the 112th,[26][27] 83 in the S. 122), 81 in the S. 155), and 46 in the S. 18). Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (Republican) had cosponsored the bill in the 109th–110th Congress, but it has not received support from the Democratic leadership.[21][22][28] Democratic Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia cosponsored and introduced the bill in the 108th Congress, but Peterson is no longer cosponsoring the bill and Miller has left the Senate.[18][19] In the 109th–111th Congress, Representative Dan Boren has been the only Democrat to cosponsor the bill.[20][22] A number of congressional committees have heard testimony on the FairTax, but it has not moved from committee since its introduction in 1999. The legislation was also discussed with President George W. Bush and his Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson.[29]

To become law, the bill will need to be included in a final version of tax legislation from the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, pass both the House and the Senate, and finally be signed by the President. In 2005, President Bush established an advisory panel on tax reform that examined several national sales tax variants including aspects of the FairTax and noted several concerns. These included uncertainties as to the revenue that would be generated, and difficulties of enforcement and administration, which made this type of tax undesirable to recommend in their final report.[8] The panel did not examine the FairTax as proposed in the legislation. The FairTax received visibility in the 2008 presidential election on the issue of taxes and the IRS, with several candidates supporting the bill.[30][31] A poll in 2009 by Rasmussen Reports found that 43% of Americans would support a national sales tax replacement, with 38% opposed to the idea; the sales tax was viewed as fairer by 52% of Republicans, 44% of Democrats, and 49% of unaffiliateds.[32] President Barack Obama did not support the bill,[33] arguing for more progressive changes to the income and payroll tax systems. President Donald Trump has proposed to lower overall income taxation and reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three.