Regardless if the Fiscal Cliff is resolved tomorrow (impossible), on December 31 (unlikely), or in tandem with the debt ceiling hike some time in March 2013, after all the government fund buffers have been soaked dry as they were back in August 2011 (most likely), one thing is certain: America’s wealthiest (billionaires and millionaires) are about to see their taxes soar – that’s more or less a given.
The question is what happens then. Will, the wealthiest – those who have access to and can buy banking, incorporation, citizenship and legal services in any global jurisdiction in a world that has never been this decentralized and this , take it all quietly up until that point on the Laffer curve says they will commit mass suicide, or maybe, just maybe, because they don’t feel like being force to pay uncle Sam even more than they currently do with the proceeds not used for something constructive like paying down debt, but instead to fund government corruption and inefficiency, they will pick up and leave without saying goodbye or even looking back, and in the process crush future US government tax revenues even more and send the deficit soaring more. After all it is the “1%” who pay 30% of all income tax. This means roughly about $600 billion in tax revenues annually.
“No risk in that”, many will say – after all where can they go? Well, apparently many places. Because if the UK, where as the Telegraph reports a stunning two-thirds of domestic millionaires opted to leave the country than pay a “punitive” 50% tax, is any indication it is possible that the imminent tax hike on America’s wealthiest is going to be one of the most destructive things that can happen to America’s already unsustainable budget deficit.
In the 2009-10 tax year, more than 16,000 people declared an annual income of more than £1 million to HM Revenue and Customs.
This number fell to just 6,000 after Gordon Brown introduced the new 50p top rate of income tax shortly before the last general election.
The figures have been seized upon by the Conservatives to claim that increasing the highest rate of tax actually led to a loss in revenues for the Government.
It is believed that rich Britons moved abroad or took steps to avoid paying the new levy by reducing their taxable incomes.
Last night, Harriet Baldwin, the Conservative MP who uncovered the latest figures, said: “Labour’s ideological tax hike led to a tax cull of millionaires.
Far from raising funds, it actually cost the UK £7 billion in lost tax revenue.
“Labour now needs to admit that their policies resulted in millionaires paying less tax and come clean about whether they would reintroduce this failed policy if they were in power.”
Mr Osborne argued earlier this year that the 50p rate was deterring entrepreneurs from coming to Britain.
It appears that at least the UK has learned its lesson:
George Osborne, the Chancellor, announced in the Budget earlier this year that the 50p top rate will be reduced to 45p from next April.
Sadly, even with this largely cosmetic move, the UK too is grappling with a far bigger issue: it has never been about revenue. It is all about spending. And both in the UK and the US government spending is simply too big. How big? So big that all tax revenues couldn’t fund just the mandatory payments (which exclude military spending), let alone discretionary.
But both the UK and US know that revealing this little factoid would lead to the beginning of the end, as the realization that the welfare state myth, which has perpetuated a tenuous peace in the “developed world” ever since the advent of Otto von Bismark, has been one big lie. And anyway, with some additional money still entering the ponzi system, one does not need to pull the plug on it just yet: it will likely last at least one or two more years before it all comes crashing down.
Yet while the UK learned the hard way that in today’s world jumping on one’s G-6 timeshare private jet and becoming a citizen of XYZ takes a few hours top of preparation and execution, the US is only now going to learn this very hard lesson.