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Discussion & Essay Questions

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Sample of Discussion & Essay Questions

  1. Europe has a value-added tax but the United States does not. Should the U.S. have a value-added tax? Answer the question from the perspective of a government worker whose job is financed through taxes and that of a worker in a coal plant.
  2. Should the United States have let the Bush-era tax cuts expire in 2010? Should they have expired for all levels of income? What would happen to consumption in each scenario?
  3. If your taxes went from the 15% to the 39.5% range, would you change your spending? If yes, what would you cut out?
  4. In 2008, the wealthiest 1% of the population paid more than 40% of all federal income taxes in the United States. Meanwhile, the bottom half of the population paid just 3%. Is this appropriate?
  5. The new health care law requires that all Americans buy health insurance. Some argue that this constitutes a tax on all workers. Is the requirement to buy health insurance a tax?
  6. When a company buys health insurance for its workers, the health insurance cost is tax deductible. When an individual buys health insurance for him or herself, it is not tax deductible. Do you believe this is appropriate?
  7. California and New York have some of the highest state taxes in the country. Florida and Nevada, among others, have no state tax. What impact does this have on companies deciding where to locate their businesses? Imagine you are a CEO of a major technology firm. Would you base your company in a low-tax state? What trade-offs might you have to make?
  8. Dividends are currently taxed twice. First, the corporate profits are taxed, and then the individual receiving the dividend payout is taxed. As a CEO, if dividend tax rates go from 15% to 39.5% for individuals, how does this impact your decision making on your dividend payout?
  9. Social Security comprises just over one-third of mandatory spending, Medicare and Medicaid require 25% and 13%, respectively. The remaining 28% covers income security programs (such as food stamps), retirement and disability programs (including pensions for federal retirees), and other programs. In a tough political environment, if you are the president, do you raise taxes to cover these programs or do you make cuts? How do you decrease the size of the government?
  10. Since 1990, New Jersey has raised taxes on the highest earners from 3.5% to 8.97%. Some estimate that more than $70 billion of wealth has left the state. If you were a top earner, would you have left the state? If you are Governor of New Jersey, what do you do?
  11. Athletes are the only individuals who are taxed when they play a game in another state. Is it appropriate to single out one industry for higher taxation?
  12. Property taxes are based on the assessed value of a person’s property. They are one of the oldest forms of taxation, rooted in the belief that property values correspond to a person’s overall wealth and ability to pay. Is this still true? Does the size of a person’s home or the amount of acreage that they own necessarily correspond with their wealth and ability to pay?
  13. Once a state makes "sin taxes" a significant part of its revenue stream, it has an incentive to keep people smoking and drinking. If everyone quits smoking, the state does not get any cigarette tax revenue. Is it really a good idea to fund public services on the back of citizens' addictions?
  14. Do you think cigarettes should be outlawed, taxed heavily, or left for market forces to decide?
  15. Should "sin taxes" be added to sugary sodas and other fatty foods?