Presidential Candidates and Sales Tax

Will you choose a presidential candidate on the basis of his or her position on sales tax?

There are so many candidates for the 2016 presidential election that it can be hard to keep them straight, let alone narrow down the field. Many voters will have some particular issue that will become the litmus test for their voting decisions. Gun control, climate change, and international policy may be on many voters’ lists.

Sales taxes may not be one of those litmus test issues. But the decisions candidates make on this issue certainly tell us something about candidates’ fiscal policies and their understanding of finance. Sales taxes are a practical matter, and the way a candidate handles sales tax can give you insights into how he or she will behave when the rubber meets the road.

Maybe sales tax won’t get people demonstrating in the streets. But you certainly could take those positions into account when you’re sizing up your options.

Here are some nuggets of information about actions candidates have taken on sales tax:

  • -Lincoln Chafee co-sponsored the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Act.
  • -Mike Huckabee has spoken in favor of a “FairTax,” which would create a 23% national sales tax on goods and services in place of income taxes.
  • -Huckabee also supports sales tax collection in online transactions.
  • -Bobby Jindal is another supporter of increasing sales tax in place of income tax.
  • -Rand Paul has voted against the Marketplace Fairness Act, the act that would require online merchants to collect sales tax in all states.
  • -As a member of the Florida legislature, Marco Rubio proposed an initiative to raise sales taxes and eliminate property tax in that state.
  • -Jeb Bush opposes national sales taxes, and took different positions on sales taxes in his home state at different times; for example, he has both
    supported and opposed sales tax on services.

As you can see, many of the major players have yet to take any position on sales tax. Will they be able to avoid it entirely? Since sales taxes are usually decided at the state level, they may not have to reveal their positions. Donald Trump just remarked, when he was asked about a state sales tax, that he avoids it — but he knows some people like it.

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