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Herman Cain 9-9-9 sticker shock? 18% sales tax possible in some states.

Under the Herman Cain 9-9-9 tax plan, a new federal sales tax would be added on top of existing state and local sales taxes. That means 9-9-9 could yield large sales taxes in some places.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / October 14, 2011

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain talks to reporters before leaving Cincinnati on a private plane at Lunken Airport, Thursday.

Carrie Cochran/The Enquirer/AP


Are you ready for some Herman Cain sales tax sticker shock?

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If the Republican candidate's 9-9-9 tax plan – which would set up a 9 percent federal sales tax, 9 percent federal payroll tax, and 9 percent federal business tax – were to go into effect, the new federal sales tax would piggyback on top of state and local sales taxes already in existence.

As a result, sales taxes around the nation would be considerably higher than 9 percent.

The residents of Tennessee and Arizona would, on average, have to pay more than 18 percent in combined state, local, and federal taxes, using data from the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group in Washington.

At least 12 states would have average sales taxes over 17 percent. California, for example, would come in at a combined rate of 17.13 percent.

And residents of four states – Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon – would have to start paying a sales tax. Currently, they have none.

It's a glimpse of of the potential nationwide effects of Mr. Cain's 9-9-9 plan, which would result in a median national sales-tax rate of 15.8 percent, according to the Tax Foundation data. To compare sales taxes by state, the data average local sales taxes across each state, since they can vary widely from one locality to another.

To the Cain campaign, these statistics miss the point. Since personal taxes would drop significantly with only one, 9 percent tax rate, individuals would have more disposable income to buy things which would be more expensive, 9-9-9 backers say.

Here's one example: An individual who currently makes $174,000 would be in the 28 percent tax bracket. According to, that person – married but filing separately – would owe $42,337. But under 9-9-9, the person’s tax would be $15,660 – a savings of $26,667.

“I understand his theory,” says Michelle Ahlman, executive director of the Arizona Retailers Association in Mesa.

But she worries about “sticker shock,” when customers see how much an item will be with the new sales tax. “People will balk at it and either turn to buying online or not spend at all,” she says.


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