2020-08-13 The kind of tax I hate

You know I want to tax the rich. In the comments of a recent blog post we talked about hating to pay tax for corrupt governments. Today I was reminded of another kind of tax I hate. For the purpose of this discussion I’m going to use a broad definition of tax: “a charge, especially a pecuniary burden which is imposed by authority.” (Webster 1913)

Here’s what happened: many moons ago I participated in the kickstarter for the Ultraviolet Grasslands by Wizard Thief Fighter. It got delivered by DHL. The VAT was apparently CHF 6.70 (currently a Swiss Franc is about a US Dollar). OK, that’s an astonishing amount of VAT to pay but if I remember correctly, they simply assess it by weighing the goods and books are heavy. But here’s the kicker: DHL paid this tax for me, and for this service, they are charging me CHF 19, so now I had to pay CHF 25.70.

That’s close to half of what the thing itself cost me.

Just to be clear: I’m not against all taxes. I do think that VAT is thoroughly anti-social, though. It’s not a progressive tax. If a poor person and a rich person both buy the same bread, they both pay the same VAT. This is not “each according to their means.” And it gets worse: I need to pay a fee for them to collect the tax – and the fee is about three times as high as the tax itself. Uuuuugh!



It gets worse. The big and established shops will actually pay the VAT for you when you check out, letting you completely avoid that “manipulation fee”. That makes it very hard to compete with them.

– Radomir Dopieralski 2020-08-13 10:54 UTC

What the hell, man. How can DHL pull that off? In which world is that fee legitimate?

– Enzo 2020-08-13 14:31 UTC

I think this is simply an artefact of how the system is set up. If you get the parcel from some other service, such as the Swiss Post, you still need to pay those CHF 19. Somebody in government agreed that CHF 19 was a fair fee to pay for that service, and at the same time, somebody agreed that all VAT below CHF 5 are waived but all VAT of CHF 5 and higher have to be paid in full. At least that’s what I remember. Now all I’m wondering is if this was a measure designed to kill imports from the European Union or whether it was simply accidental. As it stands, it’s cool if your VAT is waived, then it’s punishing and makes you mad as hell, and then at much higher levels you get into VAT bureaucracy and regular people no longer care.

I wonder what they were thinking. I’d say that the fee needs to make sense compared to the tax, so if the tax is CHF 5 and the fee is CHF 1 I’d be happy to pay it. If the tax is CHF 50 and the fee is CHF 5 I’d be happy to pay it. But if the tax is CHF 6 and the fee is CHF 19, it makes me want to cheat the system.

Or rather: I think I’d rather buy a PDF or an ebook, and not print, not ship, not pay tax, and not pay a fee. Perhaps I should agree to this terrible setup because it’s better for the environment…

– Alex 2020-08-13 14:45 UTC

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