Decoupling Basic Income from Tax Policy

The PPAU UBI+Tax policy is very clever and slick and is ultimately doomed because of it (not only in practice but more importantly in pitching it).

Many people have many ideas for tax simplification but I don’t know a single place that has it. Reality resists these clever ideas for tax reform because reality is filled with powerful interests who desire a complex tax code they can exploit. It just ridiculously hard to completely change the rules of a game where everyone is constantly competing to change the rules.

I realize the entire concept of this coupling was probably invented to counter the idea that UBI in it’s original form is “wasteful” but this counter to a single value-based argument (an opinion which can be changed) opens it up to many many implementation arguments which aren’t going to be won. Being tied to the rock that is tax policy risks sinking any argument PPAU has in the sphere of Basic Income.

And even in a magical universe where it’s put into practice there is no way the simple beautiful tax policy would resist complexity forever and when it crops up it will effect Basic Income too.

The coupling was because it’s a single tax and welfare system.

I am not sure we can decouple it. If we change the NIT to the UBI form of basic income, we have to find another $100 billion a year (since that’s what a UBI costs, relative to a NIT). What proposal can we make for raising that money that doesn’t tie it to the rock that is tax policy? (if I can borrow your words).

The basic income networks have been split on NIT vs UBI since day 1. Yet both groups prefer both options to what we have now. I’ve gotten some feedback (understatement) over this policy and seen some of the social media play out but have never really gotten the sense that choosing NIT rather than UBI makes it impossible to sell. I would actually say selling a UBI is harder, because of the cost.


I see advantages in separating the taxation and social security policies. Having them conjoined makes for a rather unwieldy monolith. Separation would facilitate flexibility.

As for the negative income tax, I prefer the “money-go-round”. It’s simpler and potentially fairer. If it costs more, then Malcolm Turnbull’s business tax cuts could go. Come to think of it, I rather like Eisenhower’s idea.

I got that sense too from recent A/B testing i’ve been doing in forums/chans but that’s part of the problem.
Firstly any non-pure UBI proposal gets far more acceptance… but generally only because they start contributing ideas which if implemented would pull it far away from being a Basic Income and just becoming welfare again, this floodgate problem returns every time making the debate not about the real actual proposal and veering off into tangents about who they think is truly deserving of a UBI…
Second issue is that you don’t actually want acceptance, convergence of ideas sounds all nice but it leads to activity die off. Ironically having the pure form results in some die-hard opposition which keeps the debates going and far more on topic.
Where the money is going to come from is fair point and the PP should definitely propose SOMETHING but it would be better to do that without damaging/corrupting the appeal of UBI.

I like the policy as it is because it is more nuanced than a flat basic income because of the reverse taxation aspect. The cost is built into the taxation policy and is cheaper to implement than a flat UBI payment. Anyone concerned about deficits, the ‘Budget bottom-line’, or taxation would immediately see the benefit of the way it is set up. It may not be as sexy to those already campaigning for a straight UBI, but it works as part of a holistic economic policy which is precisely what we have. Abandoning that to make one policy easier to sell weakens the overall economic policy, which seems to me to be a step backwards.

Our UBI policy through reverse taxation could probably do with a policy statement that explains what the basic concept is, why we want to implement it through reverse taxation and includes the point that we would like a straight UBI more than the continuation of the messy welfare system, we just think the reverse taxation method is a better way to implement it.


You have to consider the audience. The same people complaining about the bottom line costs are the ones staunchly against “handouts” of any kind, it’s one of their few arguments and their only argument that’s reasonable. What I routinely have seen is as you rip away the last place where that staunch anti side can be part of a reasonable debate, they don’t leave, they simply move towards the unreasonable and drag everyone with them.

Debates about how to pay for it are replaced with debates of the workings of inflation or how many people died under Communism, etc. And it doesn’t matter which version I try it with, whether it’s Reverse Taxation or a Citizen’s Dividend (which has conservative Alaska as it’s exemplar).

Not only is none of that stuff positive for the tone of debates but it actually throws away the pro side’s advantage… when the debate is focusing on how to pay for UBI it is inherently saying to everyone on the sidelines of the debate that UBI is something worth figuring out how to pay for. I see no benefit in quashing the payment debate until a point at which UBI is a foregone conclusion that a majority has agreed that it needs to be done.

You can’t ever convince everyone of a policy, even a good one. Some are just ideologically opposed. People who are opposed to all ‘handouts’ aren’t going to like any form of UBI. I don’t get how having a thought-through way to implement it hurts the debate.

So you are saying you would rather argue about how to pay for it?

Inflation isn’t much if an issue due to basic income replacing welfare that already exists. What does ‘Communism’ have to do with it? It replaces welfare, not sets up a single party dictatorship that operates like a monolithic corporation where all opposition is locked up or worse.

In the broad ‘why you should vote for the Pirate Party’ debate, thought-through policies like the negative income tax really help lend us credibility that other small parties lack. It shows we are more than a collection of slogans. De-integrating our policy set damages this credibility.

If you don’t want to talk about how to pay for it, don’t raise it. Whilst I think it is impossible to convince everyone of an idea, as long as I convince the majority (or at this stage in our existence, enough to get us a Senate seat) it is enough for now.

We have to focus on how to sell the Party, individual policies fit into that sales pitch, not the other way around. If we focus on how to sell each policy in isolation, we lose the coherence of our platform. Keeping the negative income tax part of our policy makes the party as a whole more attractive as far as I can tell.

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When I was campaigning for the senate in 2016, I talked to a lot of people about UBI, and in my experience I found that the way we link it to taxation, and pay for it through simplifying welfare, was by far the strongest selling point with people who were unfamiliar with the idea.

I have a lot of right-wing-ish family and many of them found the “reduction of government complexity” aspect very appealing.

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The recent problems with Centrelink raise an interesting dichotomy between the way our tax system treats the wealthy vs the way our welfare system treats the poor. If tax and welfare was all one system, applied uniformly, a lot of this double standard would disappear.