Why we need a different tax

originally published on the Democrat Herald.com Web site

The tax-filing season is revving up to its nail-biting conclusion in less than three weeks. So you would think voters would demand that federal candidates, especially for president, speak about their plans for relieving Americans of this annual ordeal. But the voters don’t ask, and if the candidates have any such plans, they are keeping mum.

No one who actually reads the federal tax instructions can believe that sane people wrote the laws on which they are based. Maybe the trouble is that more people don’t read them, which they can avoid doing by filing a simplified return or having their returns done by a pro.

So one idea for reform would be a requirement that every voter read at least the instructions for Form 1040 and pass a test. After all, the voters are responsible for sending to Congress the people who are responsible for the laws — either by writing them or refusing to change them — that form the basis of the instructions.

But that’s assuming that the present system is worth keeping, which plainly it is not.

It’s not worth keeping not only because it demands that you file a return and go through all kinds of contortions, in terms of record keeping and computations, in order to meet the requirements of the law. If that doesn’t amount to involuntary servitude, name something that does.

The system also leads to wide discrepancies in what people owe, owing to peculiar circumstances.

Savings are required for long-term economic health, but savings are taxed, and so are any earnings from savings.

And perhaps worst of all, even though from some people it confiscates enormous sums, overall the federal tax system does not raise nearly enough money to cover the outlays that Congress continues to approve.

We need two things to reset the balance. Even though the idea has not been seriously mentioned in a decade or longer, we need a requirement that government spending be limited to roughly the same as income every year.

And we need a tax system that collects the necessary revenue without the need for filing returns. Whether we call it a sales tax or a value-added tax, or even a “fair tax,” some universal consumption tax like that would fill the bill. (hh)

This editorial was originally published at http://www.dhonline.com/articles/2008/03/27/news/opinion/4edit01_tax.txt.


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