Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tax as a destabilising force - Border Adjustment Tax

John Mauldin, a prolific commentator, is well connected to the Republican establishment. He has recently concluded a three-part series titled Tax Reform: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on the coming tax reform in the US. The parts can be found here - first, second and third. It is a must read. 

The US is trying to simplify tax structures. This, by itself, is nothing new. All the countries have been trying since time immemorial to simplify tax codes. Surprisingly, they keep getting more complicated. I do not think "simplify" means what you think it means. But this time, it does seem simpler. Let us not jump the gun, it is still early days. Let the bureaucrats have a go at it and it will come out as complicated as it has ever been. Nevertheless, the intent seems to be right.

The disturbing part is the way BAT or Border Adjustment Tax is supposed to work. John paints a pretty grim picture and rightly so of the adverse consequences of ill-thought out Border adjustment tax. Mauldin and his friend Charles Gave, both seem to suggest that this move will disturb the present equilibrium. Other republicans do not think so. But there is merit in Mauldin-Gave arguments.

And then I read the US intelligence’s ‘Global Trends, Paradox of Progress’ report. That is another bleak report. What is disturbing is that the world seems to be in a precarious balance at present and 5 years out. Some situations in next 5 years as highlighted by the report:

Now the timing of BAT by Trump has become exceptionally crucial. At times in history you get amplified impact because historically small acts happened at unstable times. Here we are faced with a big act at unstable point. In effect, we are beholden to Trump's good sense, pragmatism and sense of leadership.

Interesting times these.