Risk, Rents, and Regressivity: Why the United States Needs Both an Income Tax and a Vat

19 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2004 Last revised: 12 Jan 2021


In this article, Prof. Avi-Yonah argues that the legal academic debate about fundamental tax reform from 1974 onward has been skewed by the assumption that a consumption tax must replace the income tax. He addresses three of the major issue in recent writings on the income/consumption tax debate, and shows how none of the arguments in favor of the consumption tax are conclusive. Avi-Yonah also addresses the various consumption tax proposals that have been made and shows that they are all deficient in comparison with a VAT, as well as failing to achieve the goals of an income tax. Finally, he develops the proposal that the United States should adopt a VAT in addition to the existing income tax, and addresses some of its implications (for example, for the state and local sales tax). He then distinguishes the proposal from one made by Prof. Michael Graetz to substitute a VAT for the income tax on middle-class taxpayers, and argues that while the Graetz proposal is sensible, we cannot afford it.

Suggested Citation

Avi-Yonah, Reuven S., Risk, Rents, and Regressivity: Why the United States Needs Both an Income Tax and a Vat. Tax Notes, Vol. 105, No. 13, December 20, 2004, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=637386

Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
734-647-4033 (Phone)

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