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(28)[LO5] What is the difference between horizontal and vertical equity? How do tax preferences affect people’s view of horizontal equity?(29)[LO3, LO5] Montel argues that a flat income tax rate system is vertically equitable. Oprah argues that a progressive tax rate structure is vertically equitable. How do their arguments differ? Who is correct?Vertical equity is achieved when taxpayers with greater ability to pay tax, pay more tax relative to taxpayers with a lesser ability to pay tax. One can view vertical equity in terms of tax dollars paid or in terms of tax rates. Proponents of a flat income tax or sales tax (i.e., proportional tax rate structures) are more likely to argue that vertical equity is achieved when taxpayers with a greater ability to pay tax, pay more in tax dollars. Proponents of a progressive tax system are more likely
to argue that taxpayers with a greater ability to pay should be subject to a higher tax rate. This view is based upon the argument that the relative burden of a flat tax rate decreases as a taxpayer’s income (e.g., disposable income) increases. Which is the correct answer? There is no correct answer. Nonetheless, many feel very strongly regarding one view or the other. (30)[LO3, LO5] Discuss why evaluating vertical equity simply based on tax rate structure may be less than optimal.Although tax rate structures can be used, in part, to assess vertical equity, focusing on the tax rate structure solely ignores the role that the tax base plays in determining vertical equity. Indeed, focusing on the tax rate structure in evaluating a tax system is appropriate only if the tax base chosen (e.g., taxable income, purchases, property owned, etc.) accurately portrays a taxpayer’s ability to pay. This can be a rather strong assumption. Consider the sales tax. Although taxable purchases typically increase as taxpayers’ total incomes increase, total incomes typically increase at a much faster rate than taxable purchases. Thus, the gap between taxable purchases and total income widens as total income increases. The end result is that the effective tax rates for those with a greater ability to pay are lower than those taxpayers with a lesser ability to pay. Regressive tax rate structures are generally considered not to satisfy vertical equity (unless one is a