On Tax Reform and Bipartisanship

By James Schaefer.

The last time the tax code underwent a major revision was nearly 30 years ago, in the mid-1980s, under bi-partisan legislation led by Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neil.

The existing tax code is nearly 4 million words long!  Our source here is an IRS document, “The Complexity of the Tax Code”, which begins with the words “The most serious problem facing taxpayers is the complexity of the Internal Revenue Code.”

It needs simplification.

The latest attempt to revise and reform our system of taxation — so that it better serves the needs of our citizens — was stopped in the Senate: “Reid to Tax Reform: Drop Dead” (Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2013; subscription required).  The Senate’s willingness to listen to proposals was conditioned on “significant new revenues”: an additional $1 trillion in taxes that would accompany tax code simplification.

The merits of government spending notwithstanding — and indeed, some of it is good and necessary — someone needs to advocate for the middle class from whom this money is to be taken.  The poor don’t have any money, and the rich have the means to shelter their wealth or depart for other shores.

Recently a prominent politician, speaking from the bully pulpit for the government and to the taxpayers, said: “You didn’t build that.”  One is tempted to respond, “Well, sir, where do you think the money came from?  Of course we built that.”  Similarly, we’re tempted to respond, on behalf of taxpayers, to the Senate’s request for “significant new revenues” by saying, “You didn’t earn that.”

That rebuttal, unfortunately, is as unlikely to engender bipartisan cooperation as the comment that preceded it. Both comments hinder any hope for finding common ground, and creating a solution to an overly-complex tax code.

We need everyone in this together to find a solution, one that ensures a strong, growing economy.

There is a better way.





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