The story was making the headlines recently about former Estonian PM Mart Laar (the only PM in the history of the newly independent country to get the job twice, although he still couldn't last a full term) getting the Milton Friedman award for promoting freedom. Central amounghis celebrated achievements is the introduction of Estonia's flat tax system.
The reason why I'm having trouble comprehending the complicated tax structure of countries like the US is because ours works so well so naturally. It's bloody obvious that this is how you're supposed to do this stuff. So, a few details:
- 23% (and dropping every year) personal income tax
- 33% social tax
Naturally, I had a state-sponsored spot. Best score of the year; the text was designed to allow a score of 80% for the best students. I got 85.5%.
- 18% value-added tax
That's it. There are excise charges on petrol, alcohol and tobacco of course, but otherwise the system is very simple. The rebates are few, but significant: interest on student loans and mortgages is not taxed (meaning you get 23% of interest payments back from the government).
There you have it: the Estonian tax legislation, in half a page of human text. There are no car taxes, no pet taxes, no inheritence taxes, no capital gains taxes - though I'll have to pay income tax on my stock options. To all the theorists who say it could not possibly work, I offer you a delicious factoid. The government of the Republic of Estonia had to pass a supplementary budget in 2005; the law states that our budget has to be balanced, and the tax revenue for the year exceeded expectations by two billion kroons - around 158 million dollars.
It works alright.