Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan includes a personal income tax, a business tax, and a sales tax, all at flat rates of nine percent. Bruce Bartlett critiques the plan in the New York Times today, and he flags a fact about the business tax that I hadn’t been aware of:
“The business tax in the Cain plan bears no resemblance to the present corporate income tax. The tax would apply to gross sales less dividends paid and all purchases from other companies, including investment goods. Thus, there would be no deduction for wages.”
This is far more similar to a value-added tax than to a corporate income tax. And indeed, the description on Cain’s website matches Bartlett’s, saying the business tax would apply to “Gross income less all investments, all purchases from other businesses and all dividends paid to shareholders.” One question is what Cain means by “gross income,” but I think he has to mean something like gross revenue–anything that looks like a profits concept would already exclude “purchases from other businesses” and so they would not be there to deduct.
In other words, in effect he’s proposing both a sales tax and a de facto VAT that’ll operate as a second sales tax on top of it. I’m not sure Bachmann realizes that or else she would have nailed him on it right here. Bad enough that Congress gets to play with one new “invisible” tax on consumers, but two?