Fairness of Income Tax

I’m not sure why there should be a relationship between living costs and taxes, since it depends on income, assuming fixed living costs it will quickly be much larger for frugal lifestyles… (I pay 3x my living costs in taxes, and I’m not complaining I have much more disposable income than in almost any other places I could work).


Personal expenses and taxes are valid things to compare, because they both come out of your pocket. Social contributions mostly come back to you, but taxes don’t, or it depends on your situation.

All I’m saying is: I spend 50k on living (which btw has VAT and lots of other taxes included) and 50k on income tax. This means with my tax money I could support the total living costs of another person.

I don’t even think income should be taxed at all. Income tax harms economic mobility. People who start with nothing, but have high income, are pushed down by income tax. It is also hard to calculate it, which generates a huge admin overhead.

But then it becomes difficult to calculate how much you should pay for everything public you use. Do you pay for sidewalk use for every meter you walk? Every km of road you drive? Every minute you spend in a public space?

And how does income tax help? The most logical thing would be to tax everyone the same for these things you mentioned. After all, we all have the same right to use these amenities and it’s near impossible to measure the actual usage. Since they are local things, they should be taxed on a local level anyway. We already do pay a fixed amount for health insurance or tv tax.

Interesting thoughts. I think more that money spent by government every year should be lowered by x% and then taxes lowered every year.

Never mind that wealth tax should start after 2 million or should be discontinued. I don’t get enough say on what my tax money is spent on. I get the point that we don’t all use the same things, so I don’t mind paying towards roads for example. But some spending should be questioned.

I’m afraid if everyone had to pay exactly the same amount some people could not afford it. After all, some people already cannot afford their health insurance premium.

(sorry for derailing the thread)


It’s not a tax thread, but let me elaborate. I’m just saying what would be logical. If the burden would be too high, then there other places to look for money. Wealth tax is one place. I think it’s fair to pay a portion of your wealth e.g. towards defending that wealth, so army, police, justice system. It’s all what people who made it should care for.

Other sources would include the consumption of non-renewable resources, like clean air, water, wood, dirty energy. These things should be much more heavily taxed. I should not find a full mailbox every week because its so cheap to print ads.

Sorry for taking this off track and sorry too for the long post but I feel like this warrants a deeper look (feel free to cut this post into a separate thread). Sure, most of it depends on your situation but we’re mostly benefitting from it as a whole. Taking as an example the rough expenses of my Gemeinde for 2019:

  • Roads: 26%
  • Sports: 26%
  • Education: 9%
  • Tourism: 8%
  • Justice and police: 4%
  • Protection against natural hazards: 4%
  • Land management: 4%
  • Social help: 4%
  • Public transportation: 4%
  • Health: 2%
  • Older people accomodations: 2%
  • Public lightning: 1%
  • Culture: 1%
  • Kindergarten: 1%
  • Religion: 1%

My view on it is that:

Roads: even if I don’t drive/cycle, they allow local shops to get delivered. That part of the budget benefits me.

Sports: this is mainly infrastrucutre meant to give access to sports to people. I certainly don’t use it all but physical activity helps keeping me fit. I’d say I’m making use of roughly 20% of it.

Education: even if I don’t have children, this is a failsafe for democracy, as well as a fundation for future technological advances from which I will benefit.

Tourism: that could be seen as a support to local businesses. Sure, not everybody would benefit from it but if I don’t like this business model, there are plenty of other places where I could live and not have that money invested in that way so I have to consider that I am benefitting from it.

Justice and police: who likes not being stabbed in the streets and being able to make their contracts stand? I do.

Protection against natural hazards: who likes not getting caught under a debris flow? I sure do.

Land management: this one could be debatable. It allows to have a legal frame for real estate and protect natural areas where I like to hike so I’ll say I’m benefitting from it.

Social help: here again, debatable. If you ask me, it reduces the risk of social unrest, which benefits me.

Public transportation: I’m not making use of it. If I had teens, they could use it to go in town. Not putting that money there would mean a higher price for those who use it. I’ll grant it as something from which I don’t personally benefit.

Health: this is the price we pay for having local health services, which would otherwise be located in town. That does help my health level and quality of life so I’ll say it benefits me.

Older people accomodations: I plan on getting old, this should benefit me in the end. If we’re counting AHV as something that we will ultimately benefit from, then this should count too in my opinion.

Public lightning: I don’t give a crap about it but some people swear by it. I’ll grant that it doesn’t strictly benefit me.

Culture: not strictly necessary but openmindedness is useful. It’s not a big part of the budget anyway but I’ll grant that it doesn’t strictly benefit me directly.

Kindergarten: it benefits me if I have children. A case could be made that it allows skilled people to use more of their talents working and fostering society. It can also be viewed as giving our children social contact, which can help them develop and help further our society. I’d consider I’m benefiting from it but for the purpose of this exercise, I’ll grant that it doesn’t benefit me personally, yet (as I have no children).

Religion: I’ll grant that it doesn’t benefit me.

So, as you say, the mileage varies from individual to individual but I’d say that I get meaningful services out of 70% of the taxes I pay. I’d never be able to get these services with that level of efficiency if I were not benefiting from the community taking part in their financing and organizing so the 30% are pretty easy to justify in my opinion.

Full disclosure: taxes pay my salary so I may be biased on this topic. Then again, I would not be working in the system if I didn’t believe in it.


That’s actually a great idea. In a data driven quantify yourself world like we have by now one could possibly calculate pretty exactly how much of the sidewalks and streets were used. With a Google Maps Timeline export one could enumerate this…

1 Like

Alright, so I moved the posts to a new thread, we can talk :smiley:

That’s a nice list of things that you listed. Would you be able to put a monthly value that these things bring you? I pay 5000 CHF income tax per month (btw income tax is not the only source of public services, but let’s at least get a back-of-a-napkin calculation). How much would it cost me to subscribe to each of these things separately?

Roads: hard to calculate, really. You mention that you benefit from roads because they bring you your products through these roads. Well, Then the ones who bring these products should pay it, no? And it should be included in the price of that product. One comparison I can think of is GA. It costs 300 CHF per month to have unlimited access to public transport in Switzerland. So I would not imagine that I should pay more than that for access to roads.

Sports: I really don’t get it. Why do we need to treat people like confused children who need guidance? If you don’t offer them public sports facilities, they will just sit on the couch? Also, I’m sure a lot of that budget goes into funding big sporting venues and professional sports clubs. As a sports fan myself, I still think public money should go nowhere near these kinds of initiatives. It only pumps up footballer wages etc.

Education: I’m torn on this one. On one hand, I believe that the parents who can afford it, should pay for their kids education. Why should I chip in? For the ones that can’t afford it, ok, it makes sense. So how much would it cost to support one child’s education? I saw some private school offers starting at 6000 CHF per year. But how many underprivileged children fall on an average taxpayer? 1 for every 5? So 100 CHF per month.

I already see that this calculation will be difficult to make without more concrete numbers, so I’ll stop here. And I’m not saying that the way it’s organized in Switzerland is bad, no! I just think I pay enough and it would not be fair to put that burden even higher.

1 Like

I’m not sure what your idea of an ideal society is, but I don’t want the poor/rich gap to get wider and wider. Look at the US where someone without an education in a Walmart store is earning 5-10x less than a software engineer. In Switzerland it’s closer to 2-3x.

I think it’s fair when a doctor with an taxable income of 400k is paying 160k in taxes while a young famaily with 3 kids and 100k taxable income isn’t paying 30k but rather 5-8k.

Btw, I would love to pay 5k/month income tax! :smiley:


I guess it’s better not to have an idea for ideal society, bad things happen when you start to model the world according to ideas :slight_smile: . I think income inequality is not an inherently bad thing. Income inequality is an effect of economic activity. In a society with no economic development you have equal income (equally low). I don’t think US poverty is caused by them not having enough support for the poor. The states most ridden by poverty are the high-tax democratic ones, like California.

I don’t think you should solve poverty by taxing income. I’m all for giving people opportunities. I am for supporting education, lowering gross/net income wedge etc. Income tax mostly hits the middle class.


Everyone succesful is it because of luck.

If a successful person had the exact same genes, upbringing and environment as a poor person, they would be poor because they would be exactly that poor person.

So a fair society would try to increase the well beeing of the most people. Income taxes are a good way to achieve this at the cost of the ones who were lucky anyway.


I am sorry but the world does not work by your or anyone else’s individual perspective and you have to grasp that. For example, there is plethora of existing research that shows the benefits of public access to sport facilities. I wonder if you have bothered to even look into that before airing your opinion on the matter?

You have to realize and identify that there are significantly more things that you don’t know (or any of us as individuals) than you know. A functional society is built upon a system of complex interactions. Half the times when people make a joke about something because they think it makes no sense, it is simply exposing their ignorance of just such a complex interaction. The taxation models have evolved over hundreds of years and are a core aspect of any modern society. It is just a bit arrogant of you to think it can just be disposed of, especially if you have not done any meaningful and open-minded research in the matter.

1 Like

I feel anybody is welcome to give their personal opinion and then have it changed by others. Assuming that people will read all available research before expressing their opinion is wishful thinking. Also, putting forward a counterargument is counterproductive if you’re attacking the person you’re trying to change the mind of. Your comment was very hostile and it’s not the way to discuss, it’s a way to bully.


Does this thread bring much value?

Many people are convinced of societal benefits of things like taxes and government or public services, I don’t think they’ll be convinced otherwise and same for the libertarians who believe that the world would be better if unshackled from all the regulation and social benefits holding people behind.

We can keep discussing it but it’s more for the fun of endless debating, nobody will end up with a different opinion.

I just split a thread that went offrails, didn’t put much thought to it. People want to discuss it, let them do it.

1 Like

My intention was not to be hostile and I apologize for my tone. However, I hope you accept that your statement of depicting people who believe in public access to sports facilities as confused children was not particularly kind?

Not that I’m affiliated with the communist party, but removing income tax does not seem like a good idea. I don’t think you realise there are poor people in Switzerland. Over 30% of the “taxable” population in Geneva don’t pay taxes because they are below the threshold. In Vaud it’s a bit over 30%.

If you make everyone pay a fixed amount or put a pay-per-use model in place, then some people will be unable to have basic services. Apart from the humanitarian aspect of the matter, this may prevent them from using the social elevator and becoming an active factor of the country’s economy. Who knows, even become rich with a big revenue paying a lot of tax :smiley:

Now, some points I’d like to answer to (from the outmost respect, just trying to have a healthy discussion here):

And we have one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world. Also, doesn’t it bother you that you have to pay Billag/Serafe even though you don’t watch TV?

Are you sure you’re not defending this because in your particular case you pay little wealth tax so wouldn’t mind paying more (anyway there are richer people who would pay even more) but with income tax you’re at the top of the bracket?

Well, yours is also an idea, I think :slight_smile:

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like paying taxes and if I lived in ZH instead of VD (let’s forget about ZG…) I would pay several tens of thousands less tax per year. But I get the system. I also believe that if taxes are too high they defeat their purpose.

Look at Sweden. ~50% tax rate just that women with kids can have a paternity leave of 16 months. I’m happy I don’t live in such a socialist country. Kids are a luxury item and should be paid by those who want them.

Europe is socialist in general, Switzerland feels like the exception and way closer to the US.

1 Like