The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

September 19, 2013

Income tax is still fairer of the taxes

Thursday, September 19, 2013 — RALEIGH – If you read much about the history of taxation in the United States, you begin to realize that a driving force behind tax policy has been the idea of creating fairness between different classes of taxpayers.

Americans have never liked taxes, but they have always been with us.

While the history of federal taxation grabs most of the attention in the popular press, colonial and state taxation has a much longer and varied history.

From some of the earliest days of the Virginia colony, colonists paid a poll tax.

Today, people remember poll taxes as a means to prevent black voters in the south from casting ballots. But they began as a simple flat tax levied on every free man to pay for colonial administrations.

The tax gradually became less popular (until resurrected for the aforementioned voter suppression purposes) because people recognized that it wasn’t fair.

The wealthy could easily come up with a shilling to pay the tax; for a laborer, it might represent several days work.

Assessments on property gradually became the dominant form of taxation in the colonies, but from their beginning questions of fairness led to change.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1643 imposed something called a “faculty tax” on the earnings of some professions. This predecessor of the income tax came in response to complaints by some colonists that the exclusive use of a property tax to raise revenue was unfair to farmers and merchants, as some professions largely escaped taxation because they owned little property.

Property taxes, in various forms, remained a staple of colonial and then state government revenue streams into the 20th century. By the turn of that century, states began leaving property taxes as the purview of local governments in favor of the income tax.

North Carolina adopted its modern income tax in 1919, though various business taxes had existed for decades.

During the Great Depression, property taxes and income taxes took huge hits. In response, this state and others adopted sales taxes to keep schools open and government operating.

Since then, some combination of income and sales taxes have made up the bulk of the state’s revenue stream.

Lately, state lawmakers have been pushing to change the balance. Legislators approved an overhaul of the state’s tax structure this year that cuts the corporate and personal income taxes and eliminates a tiered system in which higher earners paid higher rates.

Sen. Bob Rucho, a Charlotte Republican, continues to talk about completely eliminating income taxes while broadening the sales tax to cover services.

Rucho and some of his colleagues argue that eliminating the income tax will make North Carolina more competitive when it comes to industrial recruitment.

But the income tax, applied properly, remains a fairer tax. It recognizes that those who have benefited the most from an economic system supported by the structures of government should pay more to support those structures.

Not so long ago, a lot of political leaders – Democrat and Republican –- embraced that concept.

Scott Mooneyham is a syndicated columnist for Capitol Press Association and covers activities of the N.C. Legislature.

Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Brent Laurenz Special election adds to the mix

    RALEIGH – A busy slate of judicial elections this November got even busier recently when Judge John Martin of the N.C. Court of Appeals announced his retirement.
    A special statewide election to fill Martin’s seat will be added to the general election ballot, joining the four N.C. Supreme Court seats and three N.C. Court of Appeals races already slated for this fall.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon Fake news or sign of some more trouble?

    RALEIGH – Of the three situations I can recall where agencies receiving large sums of taxpayer dollars wouldn’t divulge employees’ salaries, two of them ended badly. The third – involving a group of charter schools in Southeastern North Carolina – is playing out right now.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    WASHINGTON - The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • D.G. Martin Where did all these new voters in North Carolina come from?

    “Voters born elsewhere make up nearly half of N.C. electorate.”
    So begins the latest DataNet report from the UNC Program on Public Life, directed by former journalist Ferrel Guillory.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon Some light for Dems in their time of darkness

    RALEIGH – Earlier this year, state Sen. Ben Clark, a Hoke County Democrat, became a hero for a day among his party and environmentalists when his amendment to require more well water testing near future fracking sites passed the Senate. It even gained the support of a number of GOP senators, against the wishes of the Republican bill sponsor.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Maintaining hope

    Gardeners are facing challenges with the weather this year. It seemed like we were getting great conditions in April and May. The weather was warm and we were getting some good rains. Then sometime in June the rain stopped. It got so dry that I didn’t have to cut the grass. While I enjoyed the break, the garden was not happy at all. I was having to water quite a bit to keep the vegetable garden alive and growing.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd I may be a bit behind the times, but at least I can find ‘America’

    I seem to be reading about and dealing with technology a lot lately.
    I  love technology and have always been fascinated by gadgets of all kinds and the wonderful things they can do. You never seem to go through an entire day without some form of invention enhancing your life.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Meeting out in open helps negotiations move ahead

    RALEIGH – State lawmakers reconvened in Raleigh on May 14 promising a brief legislative session this summer, but as July moves along they are still in town and tackling big issues.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content