As I write this particular paragraph I am sitting in the dark lobby of the Sunset Shores Resort in Villa Bay, St. Vincent, waiting for a taxi that was supposed to have been ordered by our hotel after numerous confirmations of when we were leaving this morning for the airport for a morning flight to Barbados. I had expected to be on the road to the airport at this particular time, but as I am not, I thought it would be a good time to start this particular entry even if I must finish it later on, most likely in Martinique when I expect to arrive there later today. With all of that said, my subject for today is the illegitimacy of a particular sort of taxation, or at least how those costs are conveyed to the ordinary taxpayer, whom we will refer to as “blogger.” It is not my intention at this time to discuss the legitimacy of taxation as a whole, which some people define as theft, but rather to discuss certain ways that taxation and its payment is clearly theft in ways that can be defended without a general libertarian theory of taxation.
It so happens that St. Vincent is one of the places of the world where value added taxation is used as a way of encouraging the general revenues of a government, a phenomenon that was first (I believe) popularized in Europe through the imposition of taxes that would be hidden from the consumer and included as part of the cost of goods sold rather than appearing as a separate line item for sales tax as is more common in the United States, something that helps keep the cost of taxation ever in the mind of Americans and certainly encourages our greater hostility to taxation than is present in other areas of the world. The hotel where we stayed at seems not to have understood that the way that Value Added Taxes avoid causing irritation and difficulty is to have them be invisible to the payer of said taxes as part of the price of goods. It is one thing to pay a higher price for goods because there is, say, a 10% VAT on them, and another to pay a price for goods and then have the 10% VAT added on the top just like a regular sales tax, and to know that one is paying excessive taxation that was not an agreed upon price in one’s business dealings. The hotel we stayed at this year for the Feast of Tabernacles in St. Vincent was less transparent than usual when it came to such matters, as can be described in the following vignette: shortly before the feast I was sent an invoice that said that with the three meal a day plan that the cost for me would be a bit over $1700, which prompted me to switch to a less expensive meal plan with only breakfast and dinner as a way of trying to save a couple of hundred dollars or so. However, when we arrived at the island, lo and behold the price shown to me was a bit over $1800, and when accounts were settled, this amount had swelled to near $1900 because it included the VAT for dinner as well as additional costs that were not included in the initial agreement, all of which tends to create a strong sense of bad will when it comes to relations with customers. A lack of transparency over prices between and customers is one way in which taxation is theft, as is the taxation for services that are not delivered.
There are other ways in which companies are involved in taxation as theft. For example, cell phone bills once included a detailed list of supposed taxes that added nearly ten dollars to a cell phone bill of around $50, for example. It was later found out that these taxes were largely imaginary fees concocted by cell phone companies as a way of increasing their revenue in an underhanded way, and these companies were involved in various fines and fees to the government for their creative efforts at increasing their bottom line by pretending to be charging for government assessments. Taxation that is fraudulent is clearly theft, as is the case here, as there is always the possibility that the taxation that is shown on charges (like the hotel’s continual VAT charges at every turn) is done as a way of increasing the profits of the business rather than simply passing on taxation to the customer as is the common practice of companies in general. It is one thing to pay taxes that are on the books, but a more offensive thing to think that one is paying taxes when one is instead paying business charges.
Nor does this exhaust the way in which some “taxes,” and here we will use the appropriate scare quotes for them, are clearly theft. In many countries it requires bribes to suitably encourage civil servants to do their jobs. If one wants a permit to do such and such or wants to go through lines or something else of that nature then it is necessary to pay a bribe to the appropriate official. In some cases there have even been bribes necessary for students to receive grades in various countries. Now, it is well known that many civil servants around the world are very poorly paid and that their pay does not keep pace with the inflation (itself another hidden tax) that reduces their own standard of living even as the governments that employ them seek to reduce their own indebtedness through reducing the value of their currency to reduce the price of repaying said debts. Inflation itself is a tax that is theft in the reduction of the standard of living that results from being paid with money that can itself pay for less than was agreed upon previously, and bribery is itself a tax that is theft in that people are having to pay additional fees for others to do the jobs for which they are already purportedly being paid to do. Further examples of how this is done around the world can be multiplied and the evils discussed in far more detail than I have the leisure to deal with here. Suffice it to say, though, that there are many ways in which taxation is theft, and sometimes one has the unpleasant experience of having to deal with them when one would rather be enjoying a relaxing vacation.