Are there immoral tax laws
There are different income tax models. The flat tax in which everyone pays the same share. The poll tax, where everyone pays the same amount. And our tax progression, in which those who earn more have to give up a higher share. Which model is fair?
Here I would again speak of "justified" rather than "just". Many factors play a role in a sensible tax system. I consider needs and performance to be the two most important. According to the first aspect, you should be able to live on your income. Therefore, those who have less money have to pay less taxes. The principle of the progression tax is correct.
So it is a question of perspective: it is not the rich who pay more, but the poor who pay less. Should the poorest even pay taxes?
Even the very poor who do not pay taxes enjoy public goods. According to the proverbial mite of the poor widow in the Bible, the poor could pay a symbolic contribution to show: We too are happy that we can make use of the legal and peace system, the school system, the material infrastructure and so on, that we have health insurance. And we do not take these services for granted.
Children of rich parents can hope for a greater inheritance than those of low-income families - without the offspring themselves having achieved anything. Could a hefty inheritance tax lead to more justice?
Here are a few things to consider before declaring the tax fair or unjust. First, a question: should we as parents spend all our money or should we save so that our children can inherit something? That decision should remain our own. Second, the property has already been taxed. And thirdly, we criticize greed, but we tend to forget that one of the greediest entities in world history is the state. We now work half of our working hours just for him.
At the same time, as already mentioned, cuts are being made in many areas. I have a lot of confidence in the state, but I am skeptical that it will always use the money raised in the best possible way. So if an inheritance tax should be introduced, then please as a zero-sum game: If taxes are saved elsewhere at the same time, a - moderate - inheritance tax would be justifiable.
Some rich people want to pay, but decide for themselves what for.
The rich should not be allowed to decide what happens to their taxes because they would presumably act in a partisan way, for example only promoting schools in their own district. But a state that already consumes 50 percent of the people's income should leave it to the citizens to do with the other half. Here, for example, the rich can exert influence through foundations. Perhaps our welfare state system should be supplemented by the North American idea of the patron: To get rich is not shameful, but whoever dies rich and leaves everything to his heir, dies in shame.
Everyone is asked to pay for VAT. Even the poorest have to pay the same amount as the rich. Is that fair?
The rich also pay via VAT for luxury goods such as yachts and racehorses. The state benefits from this. But we could consider removing staples like bread and water from the tax. One can only shake one's head about the fact that there is a higher VAT to be paid for diapers than for dog food. On the other hand, in many places the poor are burdened more by high housing prices than by VAT. In any case, there are good reasons for and against VAT. But I consider the question of whether it is fair to be too pathetic.
Many consider the tax system to be too complicated. Those who can afford a tax advisor have an advantage. On the other hand, the system is so complex because it wants to ensure individual justice. Would a simpler system be fairer?
I don't think the rich are really preferred here. Not only can you afford the tax advisor; because the system is so complicated, they need it too. If you have a lower income, you have fewer questions. In any case, there is detailed accompanying information, inexpensive advice and support for low fees. Hardly anyone is seriously disadvantaged anymore.
But those who can afford tax consultants have more chances to cheat.
This is a problem for the tax authorities, they should be able to prevent it. Nevertheless, I think it is right to simplify the tax system. It is not about the much invoked individual case justice, but about case type justice. And the case types don't have to be spelled out in every detail.
Responsible citizens with a natural sense of justice should be able to decide the cases themselves, at least in the main. The permanent legislation and amendments, which we know not only in the tax system, disempower the citizen. I think that's anti-democratic. A simpler tax system would satisfy almost everyone without favoring or disadvantaging the rich and without bringing in less money for the state.
Otfried Höffe (born 1943) taught philosophy at the universities in Duisburg, Friborg, St. Gallen and at the ETH Zurich. At the University of Tübingen he heads the research center for political philosophy he founded. Höffe dealt intensively with Immanuel Kant and Aristotle and made the US philosopher John Rawls' philosophy of justice known in Germany. One of his most important books is "Political Justice", most recently "Ethics. An Introduction".
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