This opinion piece originally appeared at Reuters.com.
Yes, tax accountants are wizards at designing “legal” schemes to allow the rich to pay less on their income than someone who collects a paycheck every month. Income should be income. If it fattens someones net worth, it is income and should be taxed on a basis that is equitable for all citizens. Simplify, simplify, simplify. And the government put more money into catching tax cheats. That is a proven investment that yields returns for all of us honest tax payers.
Taxes should be to raise revenue to run the government. Exactly how much of our money the government should take is an argument for another day. Our system has evolved into something that rewards or punishes us depending on our behavior. It’s social engineering at its worst, a way for the idiots in Washington to manipulate we the People.
Why do I get a tax deduction for the interest I pay on my home mortgage? Is it because a lobbyist for the Mortgage Industry convinced Congress it would incentivize all of us take out a mortgage? Was the motive to help mortgage lenders or was it some do-gooder in the Congress deciding it it would be good for the country.
We need to simplify the tax code. It’s a massive, but even members of Congress, who are responsible for writing the tax code, can’t agree on how long it is. They cite it at various lengths ranging from 2,500 pages to 2,500,000 pages. Obviously not right. even they don’t know it’s length.According to the US Government Printing Office, it’s 13,458 pages in total. The full text of Title 26 of the United States Code (the part written by Congress) is a mere 3,387 printed pages, bringing the adjusted gross page count to 16,845. One difference is whether you count repealed and replaced sections. One source that does count those reports it as 71,684 pages in length! But to be accurate, you would count only the United States Code, and the Code of Federal Regulations. But even then, it’s full of loopholes and vague or misleading sections that even tax lawyers can’t agree on. Over time, the political class has continuously used the tax system to reward both constituents and reelection campaign donors and tried to manage social and political changes by manipulating the tax code to advantage those changes. As a result, we have ended up with a tax system that is anything but fair, easy to understand, efficient, and easy to comply with. All the special treatments need to be eliminated and the tax brackets brought down to just 3 or 4. No deductions of any kind, no credits, and all income whether from wages or capital gains or investments or whatever, not deferred, and paid in the current year in full. Even many of Obama’s proposals cited in the State of the Union address just amounted to taking credits and loopholes away from one industry and giving them to others. It’s more political twisting of the tax code to advance social or political agendas. Lets’ fix the economy and the federal budget first and stop this manipulation because as long as it’s written that way, the tax lawyers and accountants/CPA’s will find loopholes. No special treatment for foreign eearned money or foreign investments held until they decide to bring them home. If you’re a U. S. citizen and you enjoy the benefits being a U. S. citizen provides, then pay what you owe right now, on time, with no special treatments. For everybody, rich or poor, no exceptions.