VT Should Borrow Tax Exemption from Bernie’s Fatherland

July 15, 2019

By David Flemming

What public policy has the best chance of convincing 20-somethings to stay in Vermont?

A) Adopting a $15 Minimum Wage

B) Passing Paid Family Leave/ Payroll Tax

C) Exempting those age 25 or younger who make $22,000 (or less) annually from Vermont’s income tax

If you answered A or B, you might be right, if you could create never-ending, well-paying jobs out of thin air. If you answered C, you might be on to something! This is in fact, exactly what Bernie Sanders’ fatherland of Poland has decided to do. They trashed their “personal income tax for young employees (25 or younger, earning less than $22,000 a year), as part of a drive to reverse a brain drain and demographic decline.”

Wait a minute, isn’t fewer young workers the thorniest problem Vermont is currently facing? Vermont has nearly 5 years on the average American’s age. How would such a proposal work for Vermont?

While most young Vermonters making less than $22,000 are already eligible for the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC), there is one important difference. Everyone pays taxes on their income throughout the year. However, you can only get these taxes back if you file your income tax with the IRS and VT Dept. of Taxes. And since part-time, low-income students making less than $10,000 annually are not obligated to file, they often choose not to, gifting Vermont’s government the income they could receive with an income tax refund.

Even low-income young Vermonters who get a large refund after filing would likely prefer to have a steadier income throughout the year. Income volatility is one of the chief predictors of financial hardship. Scraping by in 11 months of the year in hopes of receiving an unknown large tax refund annually fits that scenario all too well.

Regardless of our income levels, it is human nature to spend through cash windfalls quicker than income we receive on a regular basis. And since we build our financial habits when we are young, relying on tax refunds as opposed to slightly higher incomes with every paycheck can have financial reverberations well into many a young Vermonter’s future, even after their first raise that pushes them into the middle class.

Low-income earners should not have to deal with the complexities of the US income tax system until they reach a certain standard of living. This is why all Vermonters 25 or younger making less $22,000 should be exempt from Vermont’s income tax. While such Vermonters would still have to pay 6.2% of their paycheck for the previous generations’ Social Security and 1.5% for Medicare, they would no longer be forced to pay Vermont’s 3.3% income tax.

A recent UVM grad washing dishes for$22,000 would receive $660 extra over the course of the year, without the added stress of filing a state tax return. That’s a small chunk of revenue our government can afford to forgo, with potentially large long-term dividends. Especially if those 20-somethings see that tax exemption as a peace offering from our government, and decide to make Vermont their long term home. This is a chance for Vermont to get younger for pennies on the dollar.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat Finnie August 16, 2019 at 9:41 pm

I don’t much care how it’s done, but I would prefer to see our young native Vermonters stay here and grow the economy than I would see us go out and solicit workers from God knows where to come here and tell us all that is wrong with Vermont and how they are going to change it !


Mike August 17, 2019 at 9:27 pm

Exempting young folks who do not make an income above a reasonable predetermined level is an interesting idea. At last someone is thinking outside the box for a change.


William Hays August 18, 2019 at 11:44 pm

Good move, Polska. I wonder if the Poles would allow “Feel the Bern” to visit their country. Ja nie recommend allowing him, and his silly Socialist mindset, into the recovering country.


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