The federal income tax form needs to be simplified.
That isn't exactly news to anyone who survived the annual ordeal involved in meeting the April 15 deadline for filling out the forms and paying Uncle Sam.What is new and encouraging, though, is that even the Internal Revenue Service agrees with those who have long insisted that the tax laws and forms are needlessly complex.
What's more, the IRS is making its views heard this week where they count - in Congress.
But that's not enough. The taxpaying public must also speak up loudly and vigorously if Congress is even to make the payment of income taxes as simple as it can and should be.
Specifically, the public needs to tell Congress to:
- Overhaul provisions offering earned income credits. Though intended to help the poorest individuals, this part of the law is so murky that the poor often have to hire people to explain its 12 subsections.
- Revise the tax rules on pension plans. Many people who could and should set up pension plans do not do so because they don't understand what the law allows them to do.
- Rewrite the entire tax code in language that can be understood by ordinary people. As it is now, half of all individual taxpayers hire a specialist to prepare their returns - mostly because they are afraid of making a mistake out of ignorance.
Finally, Congress should be told to take the time needed to simplify the tax system. One reason it's so complex is that the lawmakers often write new tax laws hastily when speeding toward adjournment. The lawmakers need to put the needs of confused taxpayers ahead of their own need to get away from Washington and off on a vacation.