The overall fiscal burden in the United States may be lower than it is in Europe, but there are some features of the internal revenue code that are far worse than what can be found on the other side of the Atlantic. America has a “worldwide” tax system, for instance, which means that our government interferes with the sovereignty of other nations by taxing income earned by Americans inside their borders. Good tax policy, by contrast, relies on the “territorial” principle of only taxing income earned inside national borders – and every other developed nation uses this system. Not surprisingly, both the flat tax and national sales tax are based on this common-sense approach. If an American earns income in Hong Kong, it should be up to Hong Kong to decide how that money gets taxed. Likewise, if a German earns money in the United States, then he is fair game for the IRS. There’s an old saying that good fences make good neighbors, and territorial taxation is the fiscal policy equivalent of this sound rule. Not surprisingly, however, other nations want to mimic this horrible feature of the American tax code. The Financial Times is even urging European nations to jointly make that misguided choice. Fortunately, it is almost certain that some nations will refuse to join in such a statist cartel:
The US is unique in using citizenship in determining whether a person’s worldwide income is subject to taxation. Most countries do not impose tax on their citizens who are not resident within their borders – apart from any income that is sourced in that country. But the US system has much to commend it. After all, any citizen of a country enjoys the implicit legal and physical protection it affords. …provision is made to avoid double taxation. Moreover, there is an exit for individuals who do not accept it as they can renounce their citizenship and move elsewhere. But perhaps the best thing about it is that a worldwide system linked to citizenship is simple and easy to understand. Most American citizens do accept it, although more have handed back their passports recently. It would be hard for, say, the UK or Germany to introduce such a system unilaterally. There would be the risk of citizens jurisdiction-hopping by swapping one passport for another within a common economic area. But all European Union states could introduce the same rule. That would not be impossible. After all, EU countries already co-ordinate their policies on savings taxes and their tax authorities exchange information.