It's Time to Cleanse the Tax Code

Politicians have been yammering for years about fixing the disgraceful U.S. tax code, but while many members of Congress have “talked the talk,” few have made a real effort to “walk the walk.” In fact, during the period of Republican control of Congress, the tax code has been getting more complicated with each passing year. According to the annual tax complexity study of my group (the National Taxpayers Union), taxpayers this year had to deal with 142 pages of instructions for the standard 1040 form and schedules. That’s a hefty jump from last year’s total of 128 pages, and more than double the number in 1985 (the year before taxes were simplified.)

In the face of this growing problem—and inaction by politicians—a broad left-right coalition of groups today released a statement urging the next Congress to make tax reform a top priority.

The signers of the “Cleanse the Code” statement—ranging from the National Taxpayers Union and Heritage Foundation to Citizens for Tax Justice and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities—have sharp disagreements on some specifics of tax reform (should the tax code be made even more progressive, for instance). But they do agree that Congress and the President should scrap the current tax code in favor of a tax system that is simpler, fairer, and more transparent. The signers also all believe that the tax code shouldn’t prevent Americans from getting ahead economically. As the letter states, “All Americans deserve a fair tax system that gives them a chance to get ahead in a marketplace economy.”

The statement represents more than just the thoughts of a bunch of Washington policy wonks. Instead, it is a loud cry for change from the millions of members and supporters of all these groups. Americans across the ideological spectrum are tired of a tax system that imposes excessive paperwork burdens on them and hinders economic growth (to the benefit of our foreign competitors).

The message about our tax code is loud and clear. The only question now is whether the President and new Congress are listening.