Tax reform: Cut the tax code, eliminate the IRS?
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, April 16, 2015


“Imagine the size of Tea Party rallies if every American had to walk to the post office on April 15 with a check (and actually have that much money in their checking account) for their entire income tax and Social Security tax liabilities. The present level of government taxing and spending would not be sustainable”.

— "End the IRS Before it Ends U$", by Grover Norquist, leader of Americans for Tax Reform

Just as I’m finally able to reach my Adirondack reading chair in the side yard (while keeping my vitamin drink cold by sinking it into a last little pile of icy snow), my friend Grover’s new book arrives! Fortunately I’m not the sort to put off filing my taxes until the last minute (out of consideration for my tax accountant friend), so I could spend part of my weekend reading.

You may wonder why a taxpayer activist needs help filing taxes. Well, those of us who resist unlimited taxation are probably more aware than most citizens that there is little in the federal tax code that makes sense, that a normal person could figure out for himself.

This difficulty is not a new phenomenon. In 1966, my husband and I thought we could save scarce money by doing our own taxes. After a long afternoon at the kitchen table in our little apartment, we found we owed over a thousand dollars. You should know that my husband was a new teacher, making around $6,000 a year counting three part-time jobs; I was a stay-at-home mom. We had never heard of capital gains or “investment income”. And yet, in all simplicity, we were over our heads in a hole.

Jack was an English not a math teacher, and we thought we might be using too many zeros or not enough points. Defeated, we piled everything into a cardboard box, packed up the baby, and headed for H&R Block. Eventually I found an accountant friend.

Fast forward to 2015 and a new study from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) about tax code complexity in the U.S: NTUF found that “the economy lost $233.8 billion due to 6.1 billion hours (an estimated value of $202.1 billion) and $31.7 billion in out-of-pocket costs spent complying with a complex and invasive tax code.

“Additionally, a new analysis of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) impact on complexity found 3,322 pages of legal guidance related to the ACA added to


“Americans face a rising tax complexity burden that essentially prevents anyone from being able to comply without assistance,” NTUF author Michael Tasselmyer said. “This year’s study gives an indication of future challenges, revealing the additional complications the Affordable Care Act will add to the Tax Code and filing.”

Nevertheless, American taxpayers peaceably filed their taxes by midnight yesterday, most of them having been already paid through an efficient tax-withholding system created to pay for WWII seventy years ago. If computations weren’t exact, some owed more, but many will get refunds and, pathetically, some of them will be grateful to Uncle Sam for returning some of the interest-free loan they gave him.

Along with enjoying the fantasy, above, of suddenly-aware American taxpayers having to pay their share of the tax burden all at once, I’ll also indulge in a fantasy of what would happen, rally-wise, if federal taxes were also raised to cover the $18 trillion national debt, instead of expecting future generations to pay for today’s government overspending.

Let me say that many voters would deserve the heart palpitations that would drive them to the ground with horror and anxiety. However, the rest of us, who have been trying to limit taxes and oppose deficit spending by supporting smaller government, don’t deserve what would happen to us all as U.S. economic activity came to a screeching halt for the foreseeable future because of huge tax increases.

If we continue the way we are going, the consequences will be bad enough. If I didn’t care about any young people, e.g., my grandchildren, I could just withdraw into my golden years figuring the American experiment probably isn’t going to collapse entirely until I’m gone; I could read “American Canopy”, a book about trees by Eric Rutkow, instead of Grover’s book this week.

Just kidding. I am looking forward to “American Canopy” this summer, but right now I am thoroughly enjoying “End the IRS”. Grover’s knowledge of every aspect of federal taxation, from history to various newly-proposed solutions, is presented with his trademark humor and optimism.

I also admit I was excited to receive an advance copy of the Selous Foundation’s proposal, “The Freedom Tax”. They had me at the title, but I ran it by my friend the Austrian economist, who agrees with its policy recommendations: “10% flat tax, at source taxation, no tax returns for most taxpayers, elimination of the gift tax, estate tax and capital gains tax. This and other measures results in cutting the tax code by 95 percent, thereby eliminating the IRS as we know it”.

Another version of IRS elimination comes with “The Fair Tax”, though I admit “fair’ doesn’t grab me the way “freedom” does. Norquist addresses the pros and cons of a national sales tax replacing the income tax, to start the discussion. There will be many proposals this year as Republican candidates deal with “tax reform” as part of their platforms. I’ll eventually cover them all.

As for Massachusetts today: using the latest data from the Washington-based Tax Foundation on state and local per capita tax burdens, ours was the fifth-highest in the nation, $5,586 for every man, woman and child in the commonwealth, 32.4 percent above the national average. So, don’t let anyone tell you we don’t pay enough for essential services, if they were ever effectively provided by a well-managed state.

Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a Salem News columnist.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

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Citizens for Limited Taxation    PO Box 1147    Marblehead, MA 01945    508-915-3665