a. The five characteristics of a "good" tax are equity, certainty, convenience, economy, and simplicity. Equity refers to the fairness of the tax to the taxpayers. A certain tax is one that ensures a stable source of government revenue and provides taxpayers with some degree of certainty concerning the amount of their annual tax liability. Convenience refers to the case of assessment, collectible, and administration for the government and reasonable compliance requirements for taxpayers. An economical tax requires minimal compliance costs for taxpayers and minimal administration costs for the government. Simplicity means the tax system is simple to understand and to comply.
b. 1. The federal income tax meets the first four criteria reasonably well, even though many critics would suggest otherwise. The tax is reasonably fair in that the high-income taxpayers pay the most tax, the low-income taxpayers the least tax. While tax laws are constantly changing, most taxpayers have a pretty good idea of what their taxes are going to be for the tax year and the federal income tax does provide the government with a stable source of revenue. The tax is convenient to pay although compliance requirements for taxpayers have risen steadily over the years. The tax is economical for the government to collect; however, the cost of compliance for taxpayers is much too high as almost 60% of all taxpayers pay a tax preparer to prepare their tax returns. However, virtually no one would suggest that the federal income tax law is simple. In fact, complexity is one of the law's major flaws.
2. The state sales tax meets the criteria of certainty, convenience, economy and simplicity quite well. However, the sales tax is criticized as not being equitable as it tends to fall more heavily on lower and middle-income taxpayers.
3. Property taxes do not fare well according to the characteristics of a "good" tax. From equity standpoint, the property tax is imposed on property owners without regard to their income situation. Thus, a farmer may have substantial property but little income to pay the property
tax. Property taxes are certain but clearly not convenient in the sense that they are normally assessed in a lump-sum amount once a year. Property taxes do not meet the economy criteria. Property taxes are rather simple although differences in judgments as to valuation of property are a problem. pp. I:1-11 through I:1-14.