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Ability-to-Pay and Benefit Principles

Deciding who should pay for government is a crucial public policy concern. The ability-to-pay principle and the benefit principle provide important guidance. The ability-to-pay principle directs us to distribute financing responsibilities in accordance with ability to pay. In other words, higher income households are expected to pay more of the costs of government than households with less ability to pay. The ability-to-pay principle advises further that the burden of government finance should not be permitted to become excessive. The benefit principle says that financing shares should be allocated in proportion to the value of benefits received from government activities. Under the benefit principle, financing shares are allocated according to service usage. Implicit in the benefits standard is the expectation that people who do not participate ...

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