As much as Americans and their politicians gripe about taxes, the U.S. 
tax burden of about 24 percent is one of the lowest in the developed world. 
Compared to the other 33 nations tracked by the Organization for 
Economic Cooperation and Development, the American taxpayer gets off 
lightly. The Canadians pay about 31 percent; the Brits, 34 percent; 
Germans, 37 percent; French, 42 percent; Swedes, 46 percent; and, 
topping everybody, are the Danes at 48 percent. 
Only Turkey, Chile and Mexico have lower tax burdens than the United States. 
There are political and cultural reasons for this disparity. Western 
Europeans demand and expect a high level of government services and 
social benefits — free health care, cut-rate childcare, free higher 
education, generous government-funded pensions, heavily subsidized 
public transportation — and are generally uncomplaining about paying for it. 
The United States, by contrast, has a noisy and politically influential 
tax protest movement in the tea party. Its legislators resist any 
suggestion of tax increases to make up for the government’s yawning 
deficits and balked at even a modest increase on the wealthiest 2 
percent of taxpayers. 
Why the disparity in attitudes? Thomas Hargrove of Scripps Howard News 
Service poses a likely answer in his “Taxing Times” project. It hinges 
on a critical difference between how Americans and Western Europeans are 
The United States relies on a peculiarly aggressive and intrusive form 
of taxation, the self-reported personal and corporate income tax, for 
the bulk of its government revenues. Families and individuals provide 36 
percent of all tax revenue and businesses supply 12 percent, according 
to the OECD. 
Western European countries rely for revenue on the value-added tax, an 
unobtrusive but omnipresent consumption tax. It’s imposed on the value 
added at each stage of manufacturing or distribution. The final 
purchaser ultimately pays the VAT, which can range from quite modest on 
foodstuffs to 25 percent or more on luxury goods. As with a sales tax, 
consumers grow used to it. 
In some ways, a value-added tax makes sense for the United States; for 
one thing, it’s less vulnerable to the startling revenue fluctuations 
that have made a shamble of so many state budgets. As in Europe, it 
would allow for substantially lower income taxes. Indeed, the United 
States is the only major country without a value-added tax. 
The fact remains that in the current climate, Americans, who are broadly 
opposed to every other kind of tax, won’t sit still for a value-added tax. 
Editorial by Dale McFeatters, Scripps Howard News Service 

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