Letters to the editor 

Fair Tax, Beltline pt. II

FAIR TAX QUESTIONS

I have a few questions regarding your article (Metro Man, "March of the 'Fair Tax' sheep") in the July 27 edition of Creative Loafing:

1) Did you actually read the book, or are you just reacting to what you have heard or read elsewhere?

2) Why make so many personal attacks on Neal Boortz if the issue is the Fair Tax?

3) In contrast to Larry O'Neal's description of revenues nose-diving during a recession (under the Fair Tax), what happens to revenues under the current system during a recession?

4) You state that "Retailers and shoppers could use a number of techniques to evade" the Fair Tax. How would you compare this to all of the cheerfully submitted taxes given by legal and illegal workers and the taxes paid by black- and grey-market businesses under our current system?

5) Why would you use statements from only two people, Larry O'Neal (a tax lawyer) and Sally Wallace (who worked for the Treasury Department), to prove your points?

-- Steve McKewin, Atlanta

John Sugg answers:

1) I've read the book.

2) Mr. Boortz is the master of personal attacks. By comparison, I'm mild. And each of the comments is relative to the article. He lacks any educational credentials to comment on taxation, and he has been wrong on too many issues to name.

3) In the article, O'Neal refers to the well-established volatility of sales taxes. In a recession people spend less. The most stable taxes are ad valorem taxes -- property values tend to remain stable or steadily increase. Income taxes fluctuate, but to nowhere near the degree of sales taxes.

4) No doubt there is tax evasion today; however, under the Fair Tax, what's to prevent a retailer from just not ringing the cash register? Tax experts generally agree that any sales tax rate in excess of 10 percent is a powerful incentive to avoidance.

5) Sally Wallace works for Georgia State University. She has consulted with many agencies. Wallace and O'Neal weren't part of a statistical assertion. They are well-recognized experts on taxation; O'Neal is the public official responsible for state tax issues.

ONE MO' TIME

Thank you for publishing our letter on the proposed development at Piedmont Park (Going Postal, "'Towering' Inferno," July 27). Unfortunately, you were unable to print our letter in its entirety; the following pertinent paragraphs were not published:

Wayne Mason has also distorted the role his proposed development plays in the future of the Beltline. Contrary to Mr. Mason's propaganda, the Beltline is not dependent upon his development. Indeed, the draft Beltline plan by the Atlanta Development Authority, which was approved by the City Council, calls for no development at 10th and Monroe, and low-to-medium density at Amsterdam Walk -- not the 900+ units proposed by Mr. Mason. The ADA's recent five-year work plan, which contains the funding goals and priorities for the Beltline, similarly does not include tax revenue from any of Mr. Mason's proposed projects as a funding source for the Beltline. In fact, on July 13, 2006, an article in the AJC noted that "a new report shows there's a lot more development already in the works along Atlanta's Beltline than even its most ardent supporters had predicted." According to the AJC, this already-in-the-works development, which does not include any of Mr. Mason's proposed projects, is allowing the City to issue $200 million in bonds for the Beltline. Mr. Mason's towers have never been part of any Beltline plans, and the proposed property taxes that would be generated by this inappropriate development are not needed to fund the Beltline.

Another particularly insulting allegation in Mr. Sugg's article is Mr. Mason's false and misleading claim that "he is donating 54 percent of his land for parks and open space, worth about $70 million if developed." At a recent meeting of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association, Mr. Mason's team of lawyers admitted that all of the proposed "donated land" is undevelopable because the sections are too narrow, too close to the creek, or have too steep of a grade. Thus, it is incredibly dishonest for Mr. Mason, and Mr. Sugg, to suggest that this donated land, which is incapable of being developed, has a value of $70 million.

-- Jenifer and Drew Keenan, Atlanta

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