On December 10, 1981, my distinguished colleague Robert (Bob) E. Hall and I first proposed our flat-tax plan in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. We followed it with a book in 1983, which we updated in 1985, 1995, and 2007 (the latest edition is free to download and print from the Hoover Press).
Imitators followed in short order. With very slight adjustments to the tax rate and personal allowance, Dick Armey and Steve Forbes proposed identical plans. (As politicians, they attached their own names to the plans. A politician cannot run for office using the names of two academics as the authors of their plans).
Art Laffer wrote a different kind of flat tax for Jerry Brown in 1992 and asked me to serve as Brown’s spokesman for the plan, which I did for six weeks. Laffer has written similar plans for Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, differentiated by rates on gross business income minus investment (effectively a VAT) and personal income.
Ben Carson has an across-the-board 15 percent and Rick Santorum 20 percent flat taxes. Jeb Bush, aided by some of his brother’s former advisers, has proposed a modification of George W’s tax legislation. The others are talking in terms of lower rates and fewer deductions. Carly Fiorina wants a three-page income tax; Hall-Rabushka's draft law is three-and-a-half pages long. Marco Rubio is an outlier, with a top rate of 35 percent in his plan co-authored with Senator Mike Lee. (The Tax Foundation has an excellent table, which updates and compares all the candidates tax proposals, both Democrat and Republican.)
One or another version of a flat tax has been adopted in over 40 jurisdictions worldwide, most following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Others are under consideration in the Isle of Man beginning April 1, 2016, and in Italy, Ireland, and Poland in preparation for their next national elections. (Our book has been translated into Italian and Polish).
Will the United States have a flat tax anytime in the near future? It depends first on who becomes the Republican nominee, and if he (she) wins. Second, Republicans must retain majorities in both branches of Congress. Third, the Senate must be prepared to use the nuclear option, if necessary, to defeat a filibuster.
No one would have predicted in 1981 that over forty countries would have a flat tax in 2015, or that Western Europe would have several countries considering a flat tax. Good ideas with strong marketing can overcome inertia, special interests, and establishment politicians with their Praetorian Guards of academic advisers, and such international organizations favoring steeply graduated income taxes (in the guise of fairness) as the IMF, OECD, World Bank, and numerous left-leaning think tanks.
Your friendly proprietor has racked up hundreds of thousands of miles traveling the globe to explain the flat tax and support flat-tax movements. I frequently receive requests from foreign countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East to explain the details and benefits of the Hall-Rabushka flat tax. I have written flat-tax plans for several countries to show how they can replace their harmful, complicated, multi-bracket tax codes to improve compliance and growth.
On personal note, it is gratifying to see thirty-five years of work bearing fruit.