Some, particularly those in conservative circles, have advocated for a sales tax as an alternative or complement to the national income tax. Knowing the advantages of the sales tax has benefits for those on any side of the issue. For proponents, knowing the advantages helps to present your case in a concise, reasoned fashion. Opponents will want to know the arguments of the program they oppose. Those who are undecided may find that familiarity with the advantages helps them make up their minds.
The nation's federal income tax is highly complex. There are different rates at which people are taxed. A number of spending choices entitle the taxpayer to deductions that can be written off taxes at the end of the year. To claim these deductions, the taxpayer must keep receipts and other detailed records. A sales tax simplifies taxes. Everyone would pay the same rate on goods. While some items, such as food and clothing, may be exempted from the national sales tax, they would be exempted at the point of sale. Americans would no longer have to keep detailed records of their earnings and deductions throughout the year.
Currently, people pay different rates on their taxes. A common analogy is used to describe this form of taxation by those in favor of flat or sales taxes as alternatives -- the story of men eating a meal. If 10 men went out for dinner and paid in the manner of the current income tax system, four of the men would eat for free while the richest man would pay $59 on a $100 meal. A sales tax would eliminate this seemingly arbitrary disparity, charging everyone at the same rate based not on what they earn, but on what they consume.
While some propose the sales tax as an alternative to the income tax, others propose it as a supplement to the income tax. A sales tax adopted in addition to an income tax would provide additional revenue for the federal government. In the case of White Plains, New York, a mere half of a percent sales tax netted $10 million extra in the city's general fund, according to an article in the New York Times.
Some critics of progressive income tax consider it to be restrictive of productivity. Where an income tax places a tax on productivity, a sales tax taxes consumption. This, proponents say, will lead to an increase in productivity by releasing fetters.