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April 12, 2005
Looming Tax Deadline Still Can't Convince Americans To Simplify

According to an AP-Ipsos poll, a majority of Americans agree that taxes contain too many complications -- but they also won't agree to eliminate the deduction maze that creates them:

Most Americans think federal income taxes are too complicated, but they're not eager to simplify tax preparation by getting rid of some deductions and tax credits, according to an AP-Ipsos poll. Forty-five percent of those polled support eliminating them, while 51 percent oppose that approach. ...

Seven in 10 said their federal taxes are too complicated, according to a poll conducted for The Associated Press by Ipsos-Public Affairs. The survey found 49 percent would prefer a trip to the dentist while 48 percent would rather prepare their taxes.

This points out an unfortunate dichotomy among Americans who want reform without incurring a cost. Tax simplification makes enormous sense on many levels, even if it doesn't mean going to a complete flat tax, which I'd prefer. Treating all income equally and reducing deductions to a bare minimum would not only make tax preparation easier, it would also make enforcement a breeze. The IRS could be reduced to a manageable size and a much less intrusive presence in American lives, and the amount of capital that goes to tax preparation services and attorneys could instead be retained by consumers -- either allowing for better savings rates or redirecting the capital into investments or the commercial economy.

However, politicians like using the tax code to reward constituencies as much as possible. They write in specific exemptions and deductions in order to claim that they are fighting to reduce the tax burden of the middle class, when in fact they're only making the situation more complicated for the same group of people. Every year so many changes come through the tax code that even its enforcement agency has trouble giving the correct advice, driving more and more people into the arms of accountants and preparation services, even when they only have one or two sources of income and minimal deductions.

I long ago gave up hope that the American people would see the wisdom in seriously reforming the tax code, and started having H&R Block do my taxes a few years back. Like many in the article, I waited until the last minute to get my taxes done, although I thought I had a significant tax burden due to some changes in our income. Usually, I would try to prepare my own return first and see what difference professional tax preparation made, but this year I didn't even want to guess at it. Fortunately, last night I finally pulled together my paperwork and got the whole thing over with -- and came out at break even, surprisingly enough.

With the looming deadline coming on Friday, perhaps people will reconsider a process that holds such import for their property and their freedom having become such a foreign nightmare that few of us will brave it alone any more. Should we not be ashamed that we allowed Congress to turn our annual tax filings into the financial equivalent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? If so, make sure you tell your Congressman and Senators you support tax simplification, even if it strips off special-interest deductions. If not, and you live in the South Metro area of the Twin Cities, call Mark Krause at H&R Block in Apple Valley, and tell him the Captain says hello.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 12, 2005 7:31 AM

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