Advocates of a state tax overhaul are doing their level best to distract attention from the central truth that the plan would raise taxes on North Carolinians earning less than $51,000 a year and hand a significant tax cut to the top 20 percent.
The authors of a Civitas Institute report—which advocates abolishing the state personal income tax and replacing most of the lost revenue with a higher sales tax on a wider variety of goods and services—acknowledge that low- and middle-income households would pay more since they spend more of their income on products subject to sales taxes than wealthier households do. But they claim that this concern is overblown. They use several arguments to justify the tax shift, none of which stand up to scrutiny.
One of their central assertions is that some low-income people get government benefits, which apparently means that people living in poverty can afford to pay for a tax cut for the rich. We doubt most people in North Carolina agree. The proponents of a higher sales tax greatly exaggerate the government benefits most poor people in North Carolina actually receive. To bolster their case, they cite services available to families in Pennsylvania and appear to assume that every household eligible gets all of the services. But this is simply not the case in North Carolina. The vast majority of poor people do not receive all the services they are eligible for, in part because there are not enough funds to allow that. Read More