Statistics are for politics, making water pipes for the home: labor-intensive in production, necessary to use. Without data, not only is there no basis for making reform decisions in most policy areas, but it is not even known whether there is a need for reform at all. The current stage of the game on the marriage penalty with direct federal tax is an illustration of the textbook.
In the run-up to the survey conducted in 2016. As part of the CVP family tax initiative, according to official data, "marital chastisement" was just an image of some politicians. For the estimated number of couples giving double earners, who were clearly less privileged compared to pairs of concubinats, there were 80,000, much less than the number of clearly privileged working couples (370,000). "Clear" here means: the difference in the tax burden between spouses and cohabiting couples of at least 10 percent.
Suddenly everything was different
It looks different from June this year. The Federal Council suddenly published completely different data: 454,000 instead of just 80,000 less-privileged working couples, 324,000 preferred. With the inclusion of pensioners, there were now around 700,000 less-favored and 370,000 preferred couples; In total, it would be a marriage penalty for direct federal tax. As the Federal Council says today, the reason for the correction compared to the data from 2016. There was no discovery of a simple error, but the result of a correction of the estimation method, including the update of numbers.
There is reason to think if the change in the estimation method changes the result dramatically. These fears did not weaken on Thursday with the publication of an expert opinion on the estimation method commissioned by the Finance Department. According to the report, the lack of data does not allow a reliable estimation of the extent of the marriage penalty and the financial consequences of the family tax reform proposed by the Federal Council (see page 1).
Cantonal data sovereignty
The data key lies in the cantons; they are responsible for collecting taxes. Therefore, the expert recommends that cantons provide more detailed tax information to the federal government; in the context of family taxation, it would be primarily data on individual income and spouse deductions. In the Federal Tax Administration (FTA), an appraiser leads an open door with this recommendation. The Federal Council also wants to explore measures to get better data from the cantons.
Jakob Rütsche must know the data very well. He is the head of the tax administration in the Thurgau canton and chairman of the Swiss Tax Conference. It is an association to which all cantonal tax administrations and the free trade agreement belong. Rütsche says that only a few cantons are able to provide detailed information on all individual income and deductions. For example, in the case of requests for data related to the intrinsic value of rent, in many places the declared debts for mortgage loans and other debts could not be divided. Rütsche gives one more example: in the case of tax returns with an attached list of securities, only the total amounts of values contained in the catalog are often saved, not every single item. According to the head of the tax conference, married couples should be able to separate earnings from employment for both partners separately, but it would be difficult to allocate any deductions or income from real estate.
According to Jakob Rütsche & # 39; and the cantons will be "disproportionate" to take additional administrative measures to allow the federal government to make any model calculations: the main task of the cantonal tax authorities is "evaluation and acquisition, not providing data for future simulations". Rütsche doubts that the federal offer regarding certain financial settlements in connection with additional cantonal expenses would significantly change the picture.
Other voices of the cantonal representatives also point to some fears of the federalists. The Confederation is aware of these concerns regarding the assessment of the sovereignty of cantonal data; this concerns, for example, concerns that the cantons will not have control over the way the federal government uses and publishes its detailed data. However, the differences at this point do not have to be confusing.
The Confederation is seeking an amicable agreement with the cantons. However, it can not be ruled out that thinking about changing laws can give the federal government additional statistical power over statistics. It is not known whether the discussions will turn into a debate about the promotion of capitalism or whether they are primarily driven by cost considerations. Ironically, the concern for more detailed data processing by cantons is again caused by a hunger for data: what would be the additional costs and added value? Relevant information is required.