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An Analysis of the Feasibility of Implementing a Single Rate Sales Tax

Cornia, Gary C., Edmiston, Kelly D., Sheffrin, Steven M., and Sexton, Terri A.

Abstract:

The National Tax Association’s project on the taxation of telecommunications and electronic commerce recommended that each state employing a sales and use tax consider adopting a single statewide rate rather than continue with the number of rates currently in use. This recommendation was made in response to the criticism that current state sales and use tax schemes are too complex to expect multi-state vendors to collect and remit the sales tax in thousands of state and local jurisdictions. This article reviews the history of single rate suggestions and the problems for state and local governments that are expected to develop under such a proposal. The feasibility of adopting such a policy in five states, California, Georgia, New York, Tennessee, and Utah, is analyzed. The results of the examination reveal that the proposal is administratively feasible and simplification could be achieved. In some states the adoption of a single rate would result in modest tax revenue shifts, but in others the revenue readjustments would be significant. All states would face sizable political obstacles to a single rate proposal. We conclude that states should consider using a single rate for use tax collections and continue the use of multiple rates for in-state sales tax collections. Regardless, states must actively pursue polices to simplify their current tax processes at every opportunity.

Citation

Cornia, Gary C., Edmiston, Kelly D., Sheffrin, Steven M., and Sexton, Terri A. (2000), An Analysis of the Feasibility of Implementing a Single Rate Sales Tax, National Tax Journal, 53:4, pp. 1327-50

DOI: dx.doi.org/10.17310/ntj.2000.4S2.04