Real tax reform needed sooner rather than later

Posted: Monday, February 07, 2005

The millions of Americans about to prepare their income taxes are headed for yet another reminder on why a simpler U.S. tax code would be a blessing.

The average American family spends at least 7 1/2 hours filling out a 1040 tax form based on a tax code with regulations that span more than 70,000 pages, according to Cox News Service.

Even cutting taxes adds to the complexity, Scripps Howard News Service reports, with President Bush's tax-cut measures adding 15,562 pages since he became president in 2001.

But Bush wants to cut the red tape. In his State of the Union speech last week, Bush promised an overhaul that is "pro-growth, easy to understand and fair to all."

That's a noble goal but also a tall order.

Bush appointed a bipartisan special commission to ponder ways to simplify the tax code and report its ideas by July 31. The goal is to formulate relief legislation that Congress could tackle before the end of the year.

For both people and businesses, time is money. The Tax Foundation estimated three years ago that businesses, individuals and non-profits spent approximately 5.8 billion hours complying with the tax code at a cost of around $194 billion.

Disdain for the complexities of the tax code is nothing new.

The Washington Times notes Republicans in the 1996 Congress launched their own tax-reform commission but sputtered from a tug-of-war between supporters of a national flat tax vs. a universal sales tax, resulting in a weak endorsement for a flat tax.

As early as 1927, the Tax Foundation says, the Joint Committee on Federal Revenue Taxation reported: "It must be recognized that while a degree of simplification is possible, a simple income tax for complex business is not."

Unfortunately, many things have changed since then but the problem of simplification still plagues us.

It's time to advance the ball.

— The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

Feb. 6

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