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Other Views: Pleas to simplify, rein in, reduce taxes

5:22 PM, Apr. 15, 2013  |  Comments
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Editor's note: Today is Tax Day, and newspapers across the country are weighing in with editorials on the U.S. tax code and whether it needs changing. Daily Herald Media today is excerpting several of them:

Give tax filers a break

The federal tax code is 4 million words long, and Congress has made an average of more than one change every day for the last decade.

Citizens and businesses spend about $170 billion and 6 billion hours annually to comply, often hiring accountants and lawyers or buying computer software to fill in all their forms.

Seemingly everyone - even the Internal Revenue Service, whose ombudsman compiled all of the figures above - has argued for an overhaul. The tax code needs to be vastly simplified and shortened. And many if not most of the rules, deductions, credits, exclusions and loopholes should go away.

This should be the year for action. (...)

Set aside the partisan arguments over whether income taxes need to go up, down or stay the same. Regardless of those decisions, the code is far too complicated and needs to be dramatically reined in.

When Congress last enacted significant reform in 1986, the legislation proceeded on a revenue-neutral basis. That way, at least on average, taxpayers know their financial burden won't rise.

Yet the elaborate burden of all those forms and figures should be lifted.

Most taxpayers are willing to make a fair contribution to the federal government without complaint. But the headaches, lost time and additional expense of complying with such a bewildering code are unacceptable.

- Wisconsin State Journal

Our greedy uncle

Americans rightly dread Tax Day. Millions scramble to make it to the post office by midnight with reams of paperwork for the Internal Revenue Service. It's an annual ritual that grows more complex each year. The worst part about it is that every hour of every day spent at work is devoted to paying Uncle Sam until April 18, this year's Tax Freedom Day.

That's the date the Tax Foundation reckons taxpayers start earning money for themselves instead of the federal, state and local tax man. This year, taxpayers will spend five extra days working to pay for the tax increases included in the "fiscal cliff" tax deal and for the dreaded Obamacare.

It wasn't always this way. A century ago, Americans spent less than three weeks of their lives working for the government, which came to about 6 percent of their income. Tax Freedom Day didn't creep into the months of March and April until FDR and the New Deal. The trend since the turn of the last century has been for Tax Freedom Day to arrive later in the year, reflecting the increasing weight of both federal and state taxes. There's not much hope that taxation will shrink soon.

Income taxes, whether on wages or corporate earning, are the most damaging, as they reduce the incentive to work and invest. Virginia is no exemplar, but Maryland's tax regime is worse. Both states are somewhat insulated from the consequences of high-tax schemes owing to their proximity to the seat of the federal government, with ready access to jobs that other states don't have. But dependence on the federal government is a losing strategy for growth and job creation. The formula for real growth is based on enabling Americans to keep more of their money. Tax Day is the needed reminder that governments can't create wealth. They only consume it.

- The Washington Times

Report puts taxes in perspective

A report from the Tax Foundation, released late last week, provides a detailed breakdown of federal income taxes in terms of who pays and what, if any, inequalities exist. The results may surprise many Americans.

The report said the United States has the most progressive tax burden of any industrialized nation. The wealthiest 10 percent of the nation pays a larger share of the income tax burden than similar earners in other nations, including France, Italy and Sweden. The opposite also is true. The poorest Americans have the lowest tax burden of any industrialized nation. (...)

The report raises questions about the wisdom of so many Americans being disconnected from the primary means of funding government. It is particularly disturbing in light of how all the money collected by the deadline today won't come close to meeting federal liabilities.

If nothing else, however, the report and the dismal economic picture released last week ought to inform the debate over whether the wealthy should be made to pay more or whether government should be cut. They also ought to inform discussions about tax reform, with an eye toward ways to create jobs and revive consumer spending.

- Deseret News

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