Greedy Goblin

Friday, March 6, 2009

Guild death and taxes

I love when WoW provide a simple, yet complete model of an aspect of the world. (If you visualized a huge blue dragon by the word "aspect" you shall log off for a while). I got the following reader mail:
I'm a leader of a raiding guild, currently trying Sartharion 2 drakes. After many wipes in a progression raid, several raiders run out of consumables, some even unable to repair. To fix this problem, I introduced guild bank tax: everyone shall pay 200G a week (or consumables worth 200G) into the bank, and we use this money to fund consumables and repairs of progression raids.

The problem is that more and more people claimed that they are broke and unable to pay. That's hard for me to believe. Several other raiders don't believe it too, called the non-payers slackers or even ninjas causing drama. To save the guild, I abandoned the tax idea. What was the problem and how to fix it?
You tried to introduce a "fixed fee" tax, where everyone pays the same amount. This tax is the best for rich people (I wouldn't even notice losing 200G), but the hardest for poor ones. I don't even bother to explain why this tax is terrible, I will explain why the much better flat tax is bad. I just mention that if you had not abandoned the idea, your guild would collapse.

But before that, at first we have to make sure that "tax" and "fee" are not mixed. You pay fee for a certain service and your access to the service depend on your fee. If you don't pay WoW subscription, you won't play WoW. Taxes on the other hand cover governmental services that do not depend on your personal payment. The cops will protect you even if you have not payed a single cent into their salary. Because of that, everyone sees tax as money payed for nothing. Your guildmembers thought that they will recieve the consumables even if they don't pay, so they choose to not pay.

So the short answer is: instead of trying to tax them, demand the consumables as fee. "If you don't have consumables for yourself, you must leave the raid". This way consumables will be directly connected to the service (the raid experience and the chance for loot) and people will pay.

However I assume that most of the people who claimed to be broke was broke. I think the direct reason for that was the tax itself. When they knew that they will have to pay, they really were not motivated to go grind elementals. After all, they grind for an hour for nothing since they have to pay the gbank the income. So, tax is bad.

But what if you want something that cannot be distributed, for example gear up a flame or arcane tank? This is a serious problem in RL too, since you cannot make a society where everything is based on fees. If the army defends your country, both taxpayers and non-payers are saved. They can't defend your home and let the enemy take your non-paying neighbor's land. So there must be taxes in RL and in some cases (typically gearing up a special tank) in WoW too.

There are two ways where people don't pay tax. One is illegally cheating tax. If someone chooses that, he risks prison. The other way is simply not working. You cannot tax someone who has no income.

I don't even attempt to place any morality behind the tax. There is none. The only fair way of taxing would be fixed fee (that's why all guilds who attempt tax attempt fixed fee). It's simple, it's easy to administer and it's fair: everyone gets the same service, so pay the same price. If someone does not (or cannot) pay, let's kick him out of the guild/country.

However in real life most people would not support kicking out the poor people who cannot pay tax from the country. Most would not even support kicking non-taxpayers from a WoW guild. So (very reluctantly) accepting the principle that "poor don't pay", I'd simply want to optimize tax income, minimizing the unavoidable harmful effect of tax.

The RL is much nastier than WoW. If someone would tell in WoW that "I'm broke, please everyone in the guild give me 2G/week", he would be kicked. In real life even these people are not kicked, but the requested money (welfare) is payed. The fundamental problem is that welfare rewards non-working and tax punishes working, while working is obviously good for the society.

The main point of working is salary. The cost of this salary is that the time in work and traveling to the workplace is lost from the "fun time". Of course one can have fun in work, we'll get back to that.

Let's say that there is a $5000/year welfare and a 20% flat tax. If an unemployed person takes a $10000/year job, he loses the welfare and also $2000 tax. His income will increase only by $3000/year, at the cost of working every day in some menial job. So he will rather stay inactive. If you find it impossible to believe that someone would choose to be an unemployed person, check this EU official report, on employment rate (% of work-age population)
  • USA: 72%
  • EU-27 (Whole European Union): 63.4% (almost 10% more zombies!)
  • EU-15 (Western Europe): 66%
  • "EU-12" (mostly ex-communist-EU-members with high welfare): 58% (Braaaainssss!)
Of course the bigger factor here is welfare. However tax is also a factor. If there would be no tax, the mentioned income would increase by $5000/year what is a much bigger reason for working. So taxing the poor workers has the danger that they abandon working and turn into welfare leeches. That's why I don't support flat tax. (Fixed fee tax is much-much worse as it takes 100% of the income until you reach the tax value).

Of course if we lower the taxes of the poor workers, we have to elevate the tax of the rich workers otherwise the country won't have enough income. If one has a $100000 job, it's highly unlikely that he abandons it for a $5000 welfare, even if the tax is 40% ($45000 net loss by working). It's also important to mention that in the $100000 range there are much more interesting jobs, providing fun while working, decreasing the "time cost" of working. These people also have a much better life to lose by inprisonment, so it's less likely that they try to illegally cut their taxes.

So until we reach the utopia where welfare leeches don't get anything, therefore has to work, I will be a strong supporter of progressive tax, despite it cuts my income much more than a flat tax would.

I don't know how a progressive tax could be implemented in a WoW guild, but my advice is: "the best tax is the no tax".


Kring mentioned VAT. Since VAT cuts into welfare money (and other tax-free money including illegal, if the purchase itself is legal), I like it much better than flat income tax.

However it has the problem that it decreases sells and production, due to increasing price. The catch is that I don't have to pay VAT after my own products. If I get my car fixed by a mechanic, I pay his salary/profit+tax, and on the top of that I pay VAT (formally they pay their taxes, but they included that into the bill). On the other hand, if I fix my car myself, I only pay my own hours (as opportunity cost) minus tax (since if I'd do my job instead I'd be taxed).

So if mechanics_hour*(1+tax)*(1+VAT) > my_hour*(1-tax), it's better for me to fix my own car. This leads to the obviously ineffective situation where the car mechanic paints his own house and the painter fixes his own car.

Of course if you make $100K, it's still better to let the mechanic fix your car. However poor people shall choose to do more and more things themselves, which means spending their time very ineffectively, producing less wealth for both themselves and to the customers as they could.

So while VAT is better than flat tax, it's still bad. I'd either get rid of it, or introduce some kind of progressive VAT that depends on the item's price compared to items of the same class. So a Chevrolet Spark could have 5% VAT, a Chevrolet Malibu could have 15% VAT, and a Chevrolet Camaro could have 50% VAT.


Anonymous said...

People hate to see money disappear from their pockets. However, people don't care about money that they have never seen.

Placing a direct tax would not only make people less attracted to raiding with you, but also relies heavily on trust (how do you know how much money the person has?). Americans especially don't like taxes, they had a revolution because of them.

If you want to continue funding your raid materials, my suggestion is to master loot all the gold from boss kills and put it in the gold bank, it should more than cover your expenses.

Kiryn said...

It seems obvious to me. There were some people who couldn't afford to pay for their own repairs or consumables, and they're likely the same people who can't afford this tax. They were poor before, they're poor now.

Anonymous said...

Being unable to pay your repair bill is nothing more than being M&S. Any trade skill maxxed out, with the exception of first aid, can earn you 250g for consumables with very little effort. A few daily quests will do the same thing for you, same with 10 minutes on the AH.

In my guild, we pay repairs on raid nights. We don't impose a tax, we use more of an honor system. We sell shards from the raid, as well as BoE items for guild funds. Members deposit money in the bank to help pay back what they used. We never have an issue with money, and no one is ever so broke they can't cover their consumables.

Kring said...

What's your opinion on VAT? Isn't that basically a flat tax and should be removed? Or is it different because it fully cuts into welfare?

thcgirl77 said...

why should people pay a tax? the cost of the epics you loot is the cost of the consumables, the cost of repairs (i pay 61g to repair my gear if it`s yellow/red) and the time you spend getting them.
if you don`t have money to support your raiding, then quit. simple as that. we are trying sarth+3 drakes on 10man and it`s hard as hell, we wipe like crazy because if one dies, we all die. i never even thought of complaining about spending 100g+ per raid (flasks, health pots, food, repairs) because it`s my responsibility.

Eishen said...

From my guild experience, messing with money is not a good approach, You "reward" menbers with loot , vis DKP, so thats your "coin".

To help members (in reality to help yourself because you need 25 prepared toons and that would be a hell of multiboxing...) we provide from the guild bank in limited quantities flasks and even enchant mats. To sustain the bank we use two ways.

-All greens, blues and purples that are not required by DKP are disenchanted and stocked/auctioneed for guild profit

- We give DKP for selected mats ,never more a week that you can earn in a single raid. As nobody wants to be the second when it comes to loot kheltu we have full banks to provide with. Rich menbers are indeed happy to "sustain" others thsi way.

Stabs said...

I feel some sympathy for the raiders who see the "poor" as slackers.

Unlike RL where qualfications, experience, linguistic ability and criminal convictions among many other factors affect ability to earn money in WOW anyone can earn money. If you are incapable of doing solo quests how on earth did you get a level 80 character?

It is just laziness.

For the guild in question it will break the guild regardless of what the leader does. People who are ambitious and who use consumables will move to guilds full of similar players once Ulduar comes out because they don't want to wipe all night with slackers.

Mookey said...

Blues + BoE epix to bank - sold on AH by trusted good AH player.

Everything from guild runs sharded, so our guild bank is running with like ~100 of each enchanting mats.

Miners donate primal earth to GB, JCers take that and make rings which enchanters shard to more mats.

All enchanting for i213+ items have subvention from guild bank @ 50% ratio for healers/tanks and 33% for dps (e.g. Tank need 2 shards - he will get one for free from Guild bank, if dps need 3 shards he will get 1 shard for free)

Our guild trader makes actions with several JWCers and Inscribers whenever is something in demand, they make for him and he put that profit in bank.

All boe and blue sold with regular donations goes to GB money. We did like 3 wiping night on Sarth 3D, I simple wait for 9 wipes and than call for repair bot, change settings in guild settings and everyone in raid gets free repair. This repair costed us a lot but we worked for it. 60g average repair comes to arround 1500g for 10 wipes, and we survived that, after 3 wipe nights we got Sartharion 3D down. All funded from guild bank and our bank have still 7-8K gold.

Our raiders have rule to bring 100 food for every fight, for farming night where we need top performance 40 sta is requirement, for practicing on new content and first tries I call for 30 sta or 40 sta food depending on what we gonna do.

Better way is to remove slackers early than to make guild slowly go serving slackers...

Intentional Wipe nights are sometihng that shall be funded from guild bank, but funding everything with fixed tax will just put more pressure to everyone.

Instead of making pressure on slackers - you are putting pressure on whole guild.

Encourage passing on loot and selling shards. Is resto shamy just needed on those atack power boots? Don't let them do it like that, ask people to think if they realy need stuff for offspec.

Inquisitor said...

If it's a tax, people hate you for imposing it. If it's a fee, imposed by the situation, people grumble, but not at you.

Everyone is quite capable of farming up consumables, but a lot of people have no interest in doing so, and will operate with no 'buffer'. If you spring 20 wipes on them without warning, they will indeed go broke (well, broke-ish. I bet most of them had a few hundred gold on alts...). Hell, if you spring 20 wipes on *me* without warning, I'll be out of consumables.

Conversely, given a week's notice for 'Sarth+2 attempt Saturday evening. Conmsumables + repair fees for up to 20 wipes required to participate', suddenly everyone (who needs it) has an incentive to farm, a clear target, and enough time to fit it into their schedule.

Come start time, check everyone *does* have said consumables... if not, you have a reserve list, right? And while it's *possible* to lie about it, it's likely to become obvious that they did so, and even the dumb should realise that.

Since the cost is distributed across the participants, collecting and then distributing the money is a bit of a waste of time, and makes you a focus for ire.

Oh, and Gevlon, something for you to consider WRT the welfare state, and bankruptacy laws: Fear of failure can inhibit success. If you arrange things so that someone who runs out of money, or starts a flawed business, dies of starvation (or suffers another horrible or demeaning fate), then very few rational people will be willing to start a high-risk business. Thing is, the economy of the country as a whole is improved massively by the relatively small number of high-risk businesses that do turn out to be a massive success. Therefore, it's might be reasonable to view the welfare state as a (rational) investment society makes in its potential entrepreneurs - and not just as a way of pacifying the indignent. Personally, I think this effect contributes significantly to the first/third world divide.

Anonymous said...

Just a small factual comment: eu-12 aren't post-communist countries, are the original eu countries before 1995 enlargment. Therefore they are a subset of eu-15, bigger and somewhat richer. The welfare levels of post communist countries is actually quite small since they are poorer

Carra said...

Even with a % tax on income, there often isn't much point in going to work.

Two years ago or so, it came in the news that working half time actually give you *less* money then just living on welfare. Why would anyone want to do that?

It's a big problem. Let's say you get €800 from welfare. Going to work at an income of €1700 will give you around €850 at the end of the month assuming 50% tax. So you are not working for €850 but for €50. Hardly worth it.

Taxes in brackets could help here. For example: first €2000 you earn gets 35% tax, 2000-3000 gets 45% tax, above it 55% tax. Would be a lot fairer system as it will give more incentive to go to work. Earn €3500? Pay (2000 x 0.35 + 1000 x 0.45 + 500 x 0.55) tax.

Anonymous said...

Please note that there are MMORPG's (I believe Warhammer), that implemented an income tax. Whenever you loot a mob, a small percentage of the loot goes into the guild bank.

Kring said...

> Please note that there are
> MMORPG's (I believe Warhammer),
> that implemented an income tax.
> Whenever you loot a mob, a small
> percentage of the loot goes into
> the guild bank.

Nice idea. Because we don't loot mobs but make money on the AH. I like that. :-)

Ken said...

Warhammer Online had a unique approach to guild taxes. A portion of looted gold was taken each time you looted and deposited in a guild acct. No tax was taken from selling looted items or from AH sales, only looted gold and the % was determined by the guild leader. It could be dogged of course, by max level players who only did pvp or AH, but since it rolled out with the game there was tons of cash incoming as people leveled. Good game, btw, but not a WoW lvl game as of yet.

Sydera said...

I'm no expert on economics, but I'm a US citizen who has lived and worked in two European countries: Spain and France.

Particularly in France, the unemployment rate is high among people my age--say the 20-35 range. Many of my friends had advanced degrees and no job. There are many reasons for this, not all having to do with taxes. You could start naming causes all the way back to the French revolution, but the truth is that young people in France are facing less opportunity than their parents' generation, mostly because that older generation still occupies many of the jobs and enjoys an absolute kind of job security. However, I'll tell you that if I could, I'd trade my American citizenship for French citizenship and take my chances finding a job. Why? The additional taxes assessed in France--and their are many, including VAT, which visitors pay as well as nationals--pay for much better services than the US provides. French health care is great! It was an easier-to-use and more capable system than anything I've dealt with in the US, and it cost me less. There are also government programs to assist a wide range of people--mothers, the elderly, what have you. I'd be grateful if I were a French citizen. I think that's an extreme example, but there are some advantages to the "welfare state." In the US, there is welfare and unemployment, but both systems are difficult to navigate and in some ways punitive. Believe me, being poor in the US sucks much more than being poor in France! And hey, guess what? Many of my friends in the US have advanced degrees and no job--not for lack of trying, but because of the economic crisis. In either case, unemployment is a big possibility, but because of the way US society is, a period of unemployment is much more likely to be catastrophic. After all, a 30 year old living with his/her parents in France is nothing unusual, while in the US it would be social death. There's a multi-factored issue here, starting with the economy maybe, but including culture and history too.

Robert said...

In EveOnline the guild can impose a tax on all sales on the market(Auction House), worked very well. WOW with flat tax on looted cash and AH sales of guild members would keep a guild flush easily.

HolyGhost said...

Place mandatory drug testing to be able to collect your welfare check.

Save plenty of money there.

Introduce the fact there is daily quests you can do for money. 200g is stupid easy to make in wow in a WEEK at level 80.

Bring your own flasks and elixers or you don't raid. Easy as that.

Anonymous said...

I'd simply state that if at some point in the raid you can't pay for repairs anymore, you'll be removed from the raid and a substitute will be invited in, simple as that. Establish beforehand how much, if any, access each raider has to guild supplies, and let them work out the necessary buffer they need to have. In this system, failure is pretty harsh (you lose out on the chance of loot that you'd been working for), but really given the very basic nature of this expectation, I think it appropriate. If someone complains about not having enough time to do anything but raid, then they probably just need to be an occasional raider, rather than full time. I feel that a fundamental part of raiding is making sure you are prepared for it. Someone who's gear will be red and without the cash to repair it in 1 death is quite a gamble for a raid to take on.

Anonymous said...

"It's also important to mention that in the $100000 range there are much more interesting jobs, providing fun while working, decreasing the "time cost" of working. These people also have a much better life to lose by inprisonment, so it's less likely that they try to illegally cut their taxes."

I don't agree with this. Richer people have much more to win by cheating tax (refering to your example: it's 45k dollars to win) and I'm not yet talking about that an employee has a very hard time cheating tax, opposed to an employer.

@anonymus commentig about wellfare spendings

I think you misunderstood the point here. Of course the social wellfare spendings of Germany, with her 82 million inhabitants is much higher then for example Hungary's (10 million people live in Hungary). The percent of GNP that is spent on social wellfare is too high in the aforementioned post communist countries.

*'`^-->_Charlie_Kirk_<--^'`* said...

In my guild we generally have you bring your own consumables. On Sarth+3 10m it is VERY hard. We've done it twice in a row, it's just very hard. We generally have 5 wipes before we get it. Some of it is about luck or awareness, the other half burnout. We have about 30,000g in our gbank, as we take BoE epics and put them in the gbank, after 3 days a loot officer sells them on the AH then puts the money in the bank. We also put all shards in the bank and you can buy them for 75% of AH price. You can also buy consumables for a reduced price. (also less efficient as you do not get the procs). We then have the other tabs filled with random stuff you can take or buy if it's good or not pertinent to our raid. Sadly, we use Loot Council so I can spend 250g a night (80g on flasks, 20g on mana pots, 30g on food buffs, 20g on health pots, 20g on haste pots (6m maly/tenebron on 3d), then repair bills), and because the officers do not have that piece yet, they get it.

AH/Mob/Tradeskill sell income tax would solve all our problems. It would seperate the fake from the rich... but OMG I would hate that so much. I make like 10k a week... say it's at 20%, that's 2k every week...gone.

Deltatango said...

@Robert: the tax in EVE applies to killed NPCs only *). Not to private market transactions of corp (guild) members. Nevertheless this tax is quite a good idea to raise money for the corporation - almost like a VAT.

*) May be they changed that some time in the past (but I don't think so). Only resubscribed EVE a few days ago and am currently in an NPC corp, thus cannot tell for sure.

David, The Machine said...

There's a lot going on here to consider these guild fees (how can a voluntary association of individuals impose a tax?) What started off as a comment here ended up as something that I went ahead and turned into a blog post.

phoenixboy said...

A flat tax just doesnt work because the poor barely (if at all) can afford it and its just a drop on the rich lake.

That said, i know far too well how it feels living in a country where people can live "in their standars" without working. Is the case of "if i am going to live the same way either working or not..."

Its not that much lack of jobs, its that people wont get their ass to work if they can live of sucking the breasts of Mother Goverment (always wanted to say that)

phoenixboy said...

Forgot 1 thing:

The progressive VAT idea just cant be implement because its not going to be a fair comparation (i.e the company's aqre going to pay for having the VAT as they please).

Srry to tell you, but you are kinda naive in how fast a centralized system can get corrupt.

Its not that they are bad, its just that they are too vulnerable and get easily crippled because the corruption and the bureocracy.

Catastrophe said...

Or people who don't pay don't get funded for repairs+consumables?

csdx said...

I've actually come across an interesting piece on
Admittedly I haven't exactly followed up on their sources, and they do have a point to prove, but my intent is to just take their numbers, not opinions.

The main point I'm contending here is that of people choosing to be unemployed more in due to the existence of welfare. While I won't argue that it has no effect at all, I will argue with the data you've presented.

I note that in the source you linked, it states that the percentage covers the "working age population", which I've found to mean 18-65. The source I mentioned earlier actually directly addresses this point. Under the section "Employment and Unemployment", it states "...the difference between the EU and the US lies in disaggregating employment by age group. If we compare employment rates in 2005 of the 25-55 age group, there is virtually no difference...". Thus this data would seem to contradict your assertion that more welfare leads to people choosing to be unemployed throughout (a significant) portion of their lives. Rather, the difference stems from the fact that Europeans don't start working as young, and retire earlier. Thus what the data seem to suggest, is that given more welfare, people are likely to work for fewer years of their lives, not that some people choose to work for none (or very little) of theirs.

While this may still argue for an overall earnings loss, I still feel that this is a different picture than the caricature of "zombies" that you paint.

Dàchéng said...

"So while VAT is better than flat tax, it's still bad. I'd either get rid of it, or introduce some kind of progressive VAT ... "

There is one progressive tax in World of Warcraft: The auction house fee.