Comments about ‘In our opinion: Tax code is 3.7 million words too many’

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Published: Tuesday, April 15 2014 1:55 p.m. MDT

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sunderland56
Moab, UT

Twenty years ago, the complexity of doing your taxes was a real concern. Today? You buy a computer program, enter the data from your forms, and you're done. Even my fairly complicated return took just over an hour; simple short-form filing can usually be done in 30 minutes. People don't procrastinate because it is hard - they procrastinate because there is no point in paying the government the money you owe any earlier than necessary.

Reforming the tax code will take a long, long time, because there are two related concepts: how complex the wording is, and who pays how much. Both parties agree that the code should be simpler - but they are far, far apart on who should pay, and how much they should pay. When you say things like "reduce the corporate tax rate" that sounds great - until you realize that it's another way of saying "individuals should pay higher taxes".

JoeBlow
Far East USA, SC

Simplifying the tax code would certainly have overwhelming support. And, on the surface it seems extremely easy to do. But the devil is in the details.

What makes the tax code complicated is the deductions. My deductions are sound and make great sense. Yours? not so much.

So, Lets simplify, but keep my mortgage deduction, my personal exemptions for my kids, my charitable deduction, and so on.

We should have a sliding scale. You make X dollars, you pay X% of that. Period

Corporate rates? Same thing. Yes, they may be 35%, but corporations are paying NOWHERE near that.

I had to laugh at the cap on charitable deductions of 50% of your gross income? How about 5%?

Irony Guy
Bountiful, Utah

As the tax code was written by and for corporate America, maybe there should be an editorial on the overwhelming mess the rich and powerful have created for the rest of us.

T. Party
Pleasant Grove, UT

Write yourself a letter today to be opened on Election Day. We get what we vote for.

JimInSLC
Salt Lake City, UT

If I could design the tax structure, it would be a flat tax, escalating with the persons income; Say 5% on the first $50K, 10% on the next $200K and so on. I would do away with all deductions.
There would be no reason for refunds in such a system, solving the problem of false claims that the govt. pays out billions and can't control. There would be no need for so many IRS personnel, no need for people to do your taxes because the system is too complex. I would do away with corporate/business taxes. very few of the big corporations pay any taxes today so that would not impact much. I would do away with all subsidies.

But such a system would not gain favor. The popularity of the politician from the rich comes in his/her ability to grant favors through the tax code. Where would the politician get campaign contributions if they did not have the tax code carrot to dangle before the rich.

dalefarr
South Jordan, Utah

Simplicity could start with having identical tax rates for those who work for their money and those who buy and sell assets for their money.

Roland Kayser
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Eliminate the corporate income tax entirely, but tax dividends and capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income. That way the owners of the corporations pay the taxes and the corporations can't game the system by spreading income out around the world to arbitrage tax rates.

Anyone interested in tax reform should read the excellent book "The Benefit and the Burden" by Bruce Bartlett. It lays out pros and cons of many different proposals as well as telling us why they would all be difficult politically.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

The wise people who wrote our Constitution, and those wise States that ratified our Constitution, wrote the perfect tax revenue code:

Article 1, Section 2, Clause 1: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;"

Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3: "Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers,"

Article 1, Section 9, Clause 4: "No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken."

The 16th Amendment changed all of that: "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."

The 16th Amendment led to the total tax mess that we have today.

RJL
Hyde Park, UT

This editorial shows that "tax simplification" - which sounds appealing - is most often just a euphemism for tax cuts.

Kent C. DeForrest
Provo, UT

Yup, Mike, let's just do away with all the amendments we don't like. They are obviously not part of the "inspired" Constitution that was written by those sage 18th-century aristocrats who were so smart they built into the document provisions to deal with 21st-century dilemmas like modern health-care, automatic weapons, massive corporations, derivatives, and gay marriage.

Seriously, the Constitution is in dire need of a comprehensive rewrite to make it more relevant to our modern society.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

Article 1, Section 8 permits Congress to tax us to perform 17 duties, duties which have been enumerated clearly. We, the people, have only authorized Congress to perform those 17 duties. All other duties are to left to the States or to the people. The most expensive item on that list of enumerated duties is military/defense. Rounding up, military/defense costs about $700 billion per year. The Federal budget is about $3.5 trillion, or 5X greater than the largest authorized duty that has been authorized.

The problem is uncontrolled spending on Congress's self-assigned "duties".

No tax "reformation" will work until Congress is reined in. The duty to rein in Congress lies with the People. We have the obligation to see that Congress only does what is allowed. When WE do our duty, Congress will constrain itself to the duties that we have assigned it through the contract that we have with government, which is the Constitution.

The mess started with the people. Our great-grandparents changed the Constitution to authorize Congress to tax income. How will our greed affect our great-grandchildren?

OHBU
Columbus, OH

Mike,

Your little overview of history completely omits all of the issues the US struggled with while trying to implement taxes for over a century. You seem to believe the Amendment came out of nowhere, but the mere fact that over 2/3 of the states found it necessary would contradict your assertion. Taxes are a mess. Absolutely necessary, but a mess. Many countries actually envy our mess greatly. For example, Greece would love our mess, as they have no real way to ensure collection of taxes. We had a different mess before the Amendment, but that in no way means it was superior.

Here's the thing, everyone wants everything to be boiled down to the lay man's understanding. We don't want to listen to a whole speech, we want cable news to give us a couple soundbites. We can't understand the whole tax code, so we want it simplified. Problem is, our society isn't simple. Our economy relies on us encouraging certain behaviors. The complexity of our tax code is a reflection of our complex society. It's far from perfect, but I don't want it to become the equivalent to a soundbite.

JoeBlow
Far East USA, SC

Mike, A good start in fixing this problem would be to call out either side when they do it.

Typically, with such rampant partisanship, people only see the "other sides" transgression while giving their side a pass.

Your daily rants on this board are aimed only at the democrats, as if they are the sole cause of the problem.

You may want to take a closer look at the overspending in this country and who has been the culprit.

I am quite certain that with an honest look, you will find that your beloved GOP is equally responsible for the hole that we are in.

Now, whether you admit it or not... well, I think we all know that outcome.

atl134
Salt Lake City, UT

@JimInSLC
"If I could design the tax structure, it would be a flat tax, escalating with the persons income; Say 5% on the first $50K, 10% on the next $200K and so on. I would do away with all deductions."

Wouldn't that just be a progressive income tax? (Not that I'm complaining, I just don't think that's what a flat tax is).

Badgerbadger
Murray, UT

Simple tax code:

How much did you make?
Send it in.

With the growth of entitlements, that is where we are headed.
I don't think it will be popular.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

Some people use the excuse that the speed limit is unfair when they plead their case before the judge. Others tell the judge that everyone speeds and that the only reason that a ticket was issued is because the patrol officer didn't like blue cars. In all cases the judge bangs his gavel and administers the law as it is written, not as the people thought it should be written.

A complex society does not need a complex Constitution. A complex society works best with a simple Constitution. What's so hard about Congress telling the people that they need to talk to their governors? Companies know that they must divide duties and that passing out paper clips is not the CEO's responsibility, yet people want Congress to hand us tissues for OUR sniffles.

The Constitution does not favor political parties. Those who divert attention from a problem by saying "your party did it first" need to ponder why they, themselves, can't address the problem.

The tax code needs to be simplified. Congress needs to be reined in. We citizens need to stop demanding tissues from Congress.

Liberal Ted
Salt Lake City, UT

We also have politicians that think it's a career rather than a service.

Mark B
Eureka, CA

Taxes are complicated because of industry lobbyists whose job it is to minimize the taxes their employers pay by any means necessary. If we were to sent them all home and ban their return in the name of "simplifying taxes", Mike R. would object that we had violated "freedom of speech", that corporations are people, blah, blah. What I don't know is - which would he prefer now - simplify taxes by ending corporate lobbying or the messy but Constitutional method we have today?

Stormwalker
Cleveland , OH

Eliminate the non-profit status of churches. Treat them as any business and gain an estimated $80 Billion in revenue at federal, state and local levels.

A Quaker
Brooklyn, NY

For some reason, I can't imagine why, whenever today's Republicans put together "tax simplification," it typically involves shifting more and more of the total tax burden to people on the lower end of the income spectrum, removing it from the high end, and starving the government of funds needed to do any good for the country.

When you eliminate those 3.7 million words, what do you think will happen to your dependent deductions, your higher education deduction, moving deductions, provisions for tax-free retirement accounts, health account deductions, refundable credits? Gone, most likely. If you make less than $100,000 year, chances are you'll be paying more taxes, not less.

Meanwhile, the new "simpler" code will probably make it even easier for the rich to avoid taxation. Or lower their effective rate. Like it always does.

If you honestly want a simpler, fairer (to everyone, not just the rich) system, why don't we just return to the 1950s tax code of Eisenhower? The top rate was over 90% and the only significant tax break for business was depreciation allowance for investment in production capacity. In this country.

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