It's one thing when the information about who your neighbors give campaign contributions to is public, but it's quite something else to know what every citizen earned and what they paid in taxes. Don't panic it hasn't happened here in the U.S. but the Italian government published it all. And yup, the government's web site was taken down after a formal complaint from the country's privacy watchdog.
The release of the information was one of the last acts of the outgoing centre-left government and has shocked many tax-shy Italians. . . . But it was also hugely popular, and within hours the site was overwhelmed and impossible to access.
The finance ministry described the move as a bid to improve transparency.
The transparency ploy has generally been regarded as an end of term sour grapes move.
If, like me, you're tired of hearing about landings at Tuzla, sermons from Jeremiah Wright and the other assorted nonsense that candidates for the White House feed us (I don't blame reporters--they have to cover the story put in front of them), here's a pleasant diversion. John O. Fox, who wrote an exhaustive (but not at all exhausting) critique of the federal income tax called If Americans Really Understood the Income Tax, has released his 10 Tax Questions the Candidates Don't Want You to Ask. Each question serves as a primer on federal tax policy, with links to references, data sources, and easy to understand explanations. Fox asks about the McMansion tax break, why the tax code ensures that the poor get the poorest childcare, and the tax treatment of pensions. He proposes some of his own solutions to the questions he raises -- it would be nice to hear how congressional and presidential candidates would do the same. He also offers some wonderful quotes on taxes throughout, including this one from former IRS Commissioner Sheldon Cohen: "The tax code, once you get to know it, embodies all the essence of life: greed, politics, power, goodness, charity." Indeed, and Fox's site proves it.Continue reading
Earlier this month,