Here’s the pitch: The FairTax — a plan to replace the federal income tax and payroll tax with a national sales tax — will get rid of the IRS forever. It will let workers keep their entire paychecks and retirees keep their entire pensions. It will raise just as much money as the current tax code. It will promote economic growth. It won’t hurt the middle class, and it won’t cause prices to rise. It will even end our illegal-immigration problem.
These claims are drawn from the leading proponents of the plan: a group called Americans for Fair Taxation, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, and the trio behind the book FairTax: The Truth. By painting an attractive picture of a prosperous America without an IRS, they have gotten many conservatives to become enthusiasts for their cause. Rising conservative star Marco Rubio, a Senate candidate in Florida, has endorsed the FairTax in the past (although more recently he has hedged on it). Republican congressman John Linder of Georgia, a FairTax co-author who just announced that he will not run for reelection, has made promoting it his principal mission in Congress. The Iowa Republican party has endorsed it. It seems to be gaining support among tea partiers.
The FairTax sounds too good to be true. It is. The campaign for the FairTax is deeply misleading, and much more likely to set back the cause of tax reform than to advance it.
Our current system of taxation is far from perfect but there's nothing about the Fair Tax that would bring us closer to a fairer, more efficient system. Its dishonest supporters only muddy the legitimate dialogue of tax reform we should be having.