An Idea to Completely Restructure Taxation in MA

By: William Gunn – March 2013

I submitted a letter similar to the following to a Massachusetts State Legislator asking him to draft legislation that would eliminate the DOR and all income, sales and other taxes in the state to be replaced with a surcharge to every community based on property values.

This would allow every community in the state to decide how to generate the revenue demanded by the state- most would do so via property tax increases because the infrastructure for collection and enforcement already exists. This is not to say that communities that believe in a more “socially just” means of taxation could not incorporate a local progressive income tax or a tax on luxuries or any other scheme that could be thought of.

In my hometown of Ware, we have trouble forming a quorum for the semi-annual town meetings except when a large spending issue or an increase in taxation or fees is being suggested. This reformation of the tax system would necessarily affect every person that lives in the community; if the state were to ask for more or less (my attempt at humor) revenue from the communities every property owner would realize a quarterly change in their expenses and every renter would realize a monthly difference in their costs of living. The increased awareness of money being confiscated by the community on behalf of the state will surely motivate more people to become involved with their governments at the state and local levels. This measure would facilitate more citizens demanding fiscal sanity at the state level.

A system that generates revenue for the state in this manner will relieve every individual and business in the state of the expenses and inconveniences of tax preparation, record keeping and compliance with ever changing tax codes at the state level and possibly inspire similar legislation nationally. Retailers, utility companies, energy providers, entertainment facilities and town accountants would be relieved of the very large burden of keeping records of and paying monthly sales, use and excise taxes. In Massachusetts that translates to billions of dollars saved, and that is without cutting government services one iota (another topic for another day). The need and expense of enforcement personnel, bookkeepers and an army of bureaucrats will be eliminated.

By creating a firewall between the state and the property of the individual, the efficaciousness of lobbyists will be greatly diminished. The purpose of the corporate lobbyist is to curry favorable tax law, tax exclusions and government intervention on behalf of the group paying the lobbyists. If taxes are determined locally, the lobbyists will necessarily be required to appeal to the citizens of every community or their local representatives to garner the favor they seek. Autonomy becomes the rule rather than the exception.

I know this sounds like a proposition that could never become reality; but 10-15 years ago we didn’t think a law like Obamacare could ever pass. It is an effective tactic to introduce bills considered impossible or beyond consideration time and again until they become mainstream. If we do not introduce ideas like this to the public, they will remain ineffectual ideas. If this idea appeals to you, I appeal to you to submit it to your state legislator or Senator; take back the reigns of government and demand that government do your bidding.