In September of 2011, when looking at the insurmountable debt catastrophe that the world finds itself (which has only gotten worse in the past several years) we warned that “the only way to resolve the massive debt load is through a global coordinated debt restructuring (which would, among other things, push all global banks into bankruptcy) which, when all is said and done, will have to be funded by the world’s financial asset holders: the middle-and upper-class, which, if BCS is right, have a ~30% one-time tax on all their assets to look forward to as the great mean reversion finally arrives and the world is set back on a viable path.”
Two years later, the financial asset tax approach, in the form of depositor bail-ins, was tried – successfully (as there was no mass rioting, no revolution, in fact the people were perfectly happy to accept the confiscation of their savings) – in Cyprus, further emboldening the status quo, in this case the IMF, to propose, tongue in cheek, that the time has come for the uber-wealthy to give back some (“it’s only fair”), and to raise income taxes through the roof (which of course would mostly impact the middle class as the bulk of current income for the 1% is in the form of dividend income, ultra-cheap leverage extraction on assets and various forms of carried interest).
And now, a new tax is not only on the horizon but coming fast and furious to allow the insolvent global regime at least one more can kicking: one which will impact current and future homeowners across the world.
But first, let’s step back.
Last week, the IMF did what only the IMF could do: come to the realization that we proposed in 2009, and even the Davosites discussed earlier this year: namely that the middle class is effectively an endangered species, and rapidly on its way to wholesale extinction, and that the polarity between the rich and poor has never been greater. The IMF concluded, with the panache that only this comical organization is capable of, that income inequality “is weighing on global economic growth and fueling political instability.”
The WSJ reports:
The International Monetary Fund’s latest salvo came Thursday in a top official’s speech and a 67-page paper detailing how the IMF’s 188 member countries can use tax policy and targeted public spending to stem a rising disparity between haves and have-nots.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has made the issue a high priority for the fund, warning—along with some of the fund’s most powerful shareholders—that inequality is threatening longer-run economic prospects. Last month, Ms. Lagarde said the income gap risked creating “an economy of exclusion, and a wasteland of discarded potential” and rending “the precious fabric that holds our society together.”
The IMF’s solution? The same as that of socialists everywhere: redistribute the wealth… because apparently socialism works every time, all the time, with stellar results.
“Redistribution can help support growth because it reduces inequality,” David Lipton, the fund’s No. 2 official and a former senior White House aide, said in a speech Thursday at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “But if misconceived, this trade-off can be very costly.”
“There’s a sense that the burdens of the crisis have been unevenly distributed, that the middle classes and the poor have footed more of the bill of the crisis than the economic elite,” said Moisés Naím, a senior economist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Venezuela’s former trade minister.
Oh is there a sense? Is that why the Fed has halted its QE program which takes from what little is left of the middle class and gives to those who already have more money than they can spend in several lifetimes. Guess not.
So how does the IMF suggest going about this wholesale, global socialist revolution? Simple: the way we explained nearly three years ago.
The IMF’s latest paper doesn’t prescribe country-specific measures, but it does offer several proposals that are likely to be controversial. Most notably, the IMF says many advanced and developing economies can narrow inequality by more aggressively applying property taxes and “progressive” personal income taxes that rise as incomes increase.
The median top personal income-tax rate across the globe has halved since the 1980s to around 30%. But the IMF says “revenue-maximizing [personal income tax] rates are probably somewhere between 50% and 60% and optimal rates probably somewhat lower than that.”
We wouldn’t be too concerned about income taxes. After all, one needs to have a job to have income, and as everyone knows by now, jobs also are on their way to extinction, and every central bank everywhere will merely print the money needed to cover the income tax shortfall, leading to that “other” alternative to fixing the debt problem: global hyperinflation (with a little precious metals confiscation on the side: just like FDR did in the 1930s).
But going back to the original point, here is why those in the market for a house should be worried. Very worried. From page 40 of the IMF’s paper on “Fiscal Policy and Income Inequality“:
Some taxes levied on wealth, especially on immovable property, are also an option for economies seeking more progressive taxation. Wealth taxes, of various kinds, target the same underlying base as capital income taxes, namely assets. They could thus be considered as a potential source of progressive taxation, especially where taxes on capital incomes (including on real estate) are low or largely evaded. There are different types of wealth taxes, such as recurrent taxes on property or net wealth, transaction taxes, and inheritance and gift taxes. Over the past decades, revenue from these taxes has not kept up with the surge in wealth as a share of GDP (see earlier section) and, as a result, the effective tax rate has dropped from an average of around 0.9 percent in 1970 to approximately 0.5 percent today. The prospect of raising additional revenue from the various types of wealth taxation was recently discussed in IMF (2013b) and their role in reducing inequality can be summarized as follows.
- Property taxes are equitable and efficient, but underutilized in many economies. The average yield of property taxes in 65 economies (for which data are available) in the 2000s was around 1 percent of GDP, but in developing economies it averages only half of that (Bahl and Martínez-Vázquez, 2008). There is considerable scope to exploit this tax more fully, both as a revenue source and as a redistributive instrument, although effective implementation will require a sizable investment in administrative infrastructure, particularly in developing economies (Norregaard, 2013).
And there you have it: if you are buying a house, enjoy the low mortgage (for now… and don’t forget – if and when the time comes to sell, the buyer better be able to afford your selling price and the monthly mortgage payment should the 30 Year mortgage rise from the current 4.2% to 6%, 7% or much higher, which all those who forecast an improving economy hope happens), but what will really determine the affordability of that piece of property you have your eyes set on, are the property taxes.
Because they are about to skyrocket.