Des­per­ate for tax re­form that sim­pli­fies

El Dorado News-Times - - Opinion - Tom Pur­cell Tom Pur­cell is a Pitts­burgh Tri­bune-Review hu­mor colum­nist and is na­tion­ally syn­di­cated ex­clu­sively by Ca­gle Car­toons Inc. Send com­ments to Tom at Tom@TomPur­cell.com.

"Help!" said the fel­low, sur­rounded by a pile of pa­pers. "I don't think I'm go­ing to make it through this 1040 tax form." "Why is that?" I said. "The 2016 tax ex­ten­sion I filed is due by Oct. 15. But it is so com­pli­cated, I don't see how I can pos­si­bly fig­ure it."

"Mil­lions feel your pain," I said. "Ac­cord­ing to Forbes, the ba­sic 1040 form was two sim­ple pages in 1935. Now the ba­sic 1040 form has 100 pages of in­struc­tions that are very com­plex. Maybe you can con­tact the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice for help."

"Ha!" he said. "The tax code has got­ten so com­pli­cated that even the IRS can't get a han­dle on it. Ev­ery year, some group has 10 peo­ple call 10 IRS rep­re­sen­ta­tives with the same ques­tions, and they fre­quently get sev­eral dif­fer­ent an­swers." "That's no good." "Did you know that in 1913, when the in­come tax was in­tro­duced in Amer­ica, it was only 1 per­cent, and only the very wealthy paid it?"

"I did not."

"Well, taxes have a ten­dency to go one way and that is up," he said. "Dur­ing our wars, tax rates shot way up to pay for the war ef­forts and no­body com­plained, but the tax rates tended to stay high af­ter the wars."

"Well, we did a lot of things in Amer­ica af­ter the Sec­ond World War," I said. "We built up our in­fra­struc­ture, made money avail­able for col­lege and houses through the GI Bill and in­vested bil­lions in so­cial pro­grams. Th­ese things cost dough."

"Sure, that is well and good and th­ese pro­grams helped mil­lions, but even as taxes in­creased, it wasn't un­til re­cent years that com­plet­ing a stupid tax form got so dif­fi­cult." "Please ex­plain." "It's been 30 years since Pres­i­dent Rea­gan ush­ered in tax sim­pli­fi­ca­tion. At that time, mul­ti­ple loop­holes and de­duc­tions were elim­i­nated in re­turn for lower rates. In the late '80s, com­plet­ing a 1040 was a piece of cake." "OK."

"But over the years, Congress kept med­dling with the tax code. Some­times it was to pass tar­geted cuts for in­di­vid­u­als and small busi­nesses, which many wel­comed. Other times it was to in­sert loop­holes to pay back donors. The re­sult is an in­cred­i­ble tax com­plex­ity that is hurt­ing ev­ery­one."

"How so?" "Be­cause the tax code is so dif­fi­cult to com­ply with, av­er­age Joes and small-busi­ness folks have to hire ac­coun­tants to file their re­turns. The Daily Sig­nal re­ports that the tax code was 400 pages in 1913. Now it is more than 70,000 pages!" "That's no good." "The Daily Sig­nal fur­ther re­ports that 'Amer­i­cans spend 9 bil­lion hours com­ply­ing with the tax code ev­ery year, which costs them over $400 bil­lion in lost eco­nomic pro­duc­tiv­ity ev­ery year.' Tax com­plex­ity is a key rea­son eco­nomic growth has been stag­nant in re­cent years."

"What can we do to solve the prob­lem?" "We make Repub­li­cans in Congress honor their cam­paign prom­ises and work with Pres­i­dent Trump to lower rates, sim­plify fil­ing and get rid of loop­holes for spe­cial in­ter­ests. We need a new tax code that un­leashes the pent-up cre­ativ­ity and en­ergy in our busi­ness sec­tor ---- that makes it eas­ier for peo­ple to risk their sav­ings by in­vest­ing in new busi­nesses. That is how you cre­ate jobs, in­crease wages and put mil­lions of peo­ple back into the mid­dle class."

"Your ideas are good, but it's tak­ing Congress and the pres­i­dent way too much time to ad­dress the prob­lem. In the mean­time, why don't you just hire a highly skilled tax at­tor­ney to help you com­plete that 1040 ex­ten­sion?"

"That's the prob­lem," he said. "I AM a highly skilled tax at­tor­ney!"

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