If ever there was a truism, it’s that everybody hates taxes—this week especially. Or do they? In at least a handful of situations, a surprisingly large portion of Americans favor introducing new taxes or jacking up the rates on existing ones.
Here are five possible new taxes that, at least in theory, get plenty of support:
Taxing sugary soft drinks has been proposed as a way to discourage people—kids especially—from drinking high-calorie beverages, which would hopefully lower obesity rates. The idea has been endorsed by the New England Journal of Medicine because it would also raise significant revenues for health care. It’s been estimated that a 1¢ per ounce tax would pull in $14.9 billion in the first year alone. In a recent poll, 57% of California voters also endorsed the idea, agreeing that local governments should have the right to tax sweetened beverages, as well as alcohol, cigarettes, or junk food in order to fight obesity.
Admittedly, in this instance—and many others, surely—California is not necessarily representative of the country as a whole. In another survey (this one national), 64% of Americans did not support the idea of a hefty 20% soda tax. The groups who would support such a measure tended to skew wealthy, young, thin, and/or well educated. And the groups that are most opposed to a soda tax? The poor and obese.
Online Sales Tax
Consumers routinely avoid paying sales tax on items by purchasing them through online sellers such as Amazon and Overstock. Unless the retailer has a physical presence in the state where the item is being shipped, the seller is not required to charge sales tax on the purchase. This scenario gives an obvious advantage to online sellers over brick-and-mortar stores: In a state where the sales tax is 7%, the consumer gets an automatic 7% discount by purchasing online. That’s assuming free shipping, which is easy to come by, and that the consumer doesn’t bother paying for the sales tax when filing come April 15—which very few people seem to do.
One reason that only a small portion of consumers dutifully pay sales taxes for online purchases is that they don’t know they’re supposed to. Last fall, as the Marketplace Fairness Act was being discussed as a measure to give all states the right to require online sellers to collect sales tax, a survey was conducted and revealed that three-quarters of Americans did not know that they still owed sales tax on items they purchased online in which no tax was collected during the transaction. That same survey also showed that the majority of consumers (61%) supported the idea of legislation that would allow states to require online sellers to collect sales tax. Even Amazon has agreed to support such a measure.
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‘Buffett Tax’ on the Wealthy
In a recent Reuters poll, 64% of Americans were in favor of a “Buffett tax,” in which—as more or less suggested by Warren Buffett last summer—those who earn $1 million or more per year would pay a minimum tax rate of 30%. Even the rich seem to think taxes should be raised on the rich: In a survey conducted last fall, two-thirds of Americans with at least $1 million in investments said that taxes should be hiked on those with $1 million or more in annual income.
Higher Gas Taxes*
As gas prices soar, people can’t really be in favor of pushing gas taxes upward and making prices at the pump even more painful, can they? Well, no. The results of a poll released late last year show that only 19% want to increase the federal gas tax, while 77% oppose. But! Most of us would get on board with higher gas taxes under special circumstances. Specifically, the majority of respondents (62%) in a 2011 poll supported a 10¢ per gallon tax increase—*but only if the money raised was used to improve roads.
For the April issue of Money magazine, an online poll asked “What’s the best option for tax reform?” The possibilities were losing complex deductions, a flat tax, a consumption tax, or doing nothing, and while none received a majority of the votes, one option garnered the most support. A consumption tax, which would simply add a tax to nearly every purchase under the sun, received 38% of the votes by the time Money went to print, and at last check had gotten 46% support. Only 3% of voters said we should just keep the current system as is.