Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Taxing migrants?

The Daily Telegraph reports that the UK is considering a levy on new migrants – to pay for the substandard NHS and public education systems. This ignores the elephant in the room. The problem isn't migrants, it is how health and education is funded and how demand for the services is rationed. The model of centrally planned bureaucracy keeps failing, so why keep using it because it seems too damned hard to fix it?

Here’s an idea, it can be applied to the UK, or NZ or indeed many countries....

New migrants don’t pay income tax (or national insurance in the UK), for three years (well they can if they want, but they don't get anything more for it). After that they can choose to do so, and avail themselves of the state provided “services” or continue to opt out. Indirect taxes such as VAT/GST are adequate to cover law and order, defence and other state functions.

In exchange for not paying income tax, new migrants have no claim on the public health system or education system and would be charged on a marginal cost recovery basis with a contribution to fixed costs. New migrants could also not claim taxpayer funding housing or welfare benefits. The years they spend not paying income tax also wont count for old age pensions/national superannuation.

In short, they pay for what they consume and what their families consume. Yes some bits and pieces would need ironing out, you can’t not pay income tax and then pay only the years your kids need an education. You’d need to pay from when they are born. You can’t opt out of income tax and expect to still get access to the state social services at all, it’s like insurance, you opt out and stay opted out.
However, if the state supplied socialised health, education and welfare services appeal, then migrants can pay income tax.

Unfair? How? It stops existing citizens from subsidising new ones through taxes, means the tiresome argument about “paying for infrastructure” is up to the new migrants to pay for, and suddenly the type of migrants you get might actually be those willing to be self sufficient.

In the UK this couldn’t apply to people from EU countries of course, sadly, but it can apply more generally. Of course NZ could apply it across the board, and you’d find out how many people really think they get value for money out of their taxes. You’d also find it a lot easier to recruit overseas doctors and the like.

Socialists will huff and puff that this will benefit their great nemesis - the rich (snarling jaws dripping with envy). Rich migrants of course, bringing their wealth into the country, spending their money. Socialists don’t want to argue that their beloved taxpayer funded social services are always going to be inadequate because they have few mechanisms for accountability, cost control, rewarding good performance and behaviour and penalising bad.

Most socialists show little interest in having a transparent debate about how much of taxes should be about paying for what you use, and how much is about compulsorily paying for other people.

Now that is an honest debate I’d like to have.


Anonymous said...

Most socialists I know are unashamedly open about that last point. Of course it's compulsorily about paying for others - it's my contribution to a civil society see? Sigh.

Libertyscott said...

Nice cop out, but it doesn't wash. For starters, it is not a contribution, it is the use of force. Secondly, by what wild imagination does funding the salaries of bureaucrats "contribute to civil society" more than spending my own money on myself, family, friends, businesses and voluntary associations I support? Thirdly, why is it that the more you become independent and successful, the higher proportion of your rewards you are expected to surrender by force to bureaucrats creating a "civil society". Fourthly, why do many recipients of this largesse act completely contrary to being civil, and are not the slightest bit grateful for living off of the earnings of others? Finally, since when did a civil society rest on initiating force against people? How does violence reinforce civility?