Here’s some news that should cause all taxpaying Americans to feel a cold, hard lump in the pit of their stomachs: Congress has decided to focus on “tax reform.”
Congress’ decision to pivot to tax reform has produced all kinds of news stories, most of which have headlines that can only stoke the angst. What does the proposed tax reform bill means for the value of your home? What kind of hidden tax brackets might be found deep in the dense language of the proposed bill? How will small business owners be affected? What company’s stock price took a dive because the bill proposes repealing a crucial tax break? All of these stories, and more, can be found simply by running a google search on “republican tax bill.”
The stories are indirectly reflective of the key problem with the federal tax code, because the many different areas of potential concern they address shows just how wide and deep is the reach and impact of our federal tax structure. Virtually every company, industry, form of property, job, trade, college, technology, and concept is affected by some form of federal tax or federal tax break. At the founding of the republic, Alexander Hamilton may have devised a simple approach to raising revenue to fund the federal government, but those days are long gone. Now, the tax code is a complicated morass far beyond the ken of the average citizen, with special rates and breaks and benefits and exclusions and surcharges that only experts and lobbyists understand.
So, given that reality, why should the average citizen be concerned that Congress has decided it’s time to mess around with the tax code? Because our political class, Republicans and Democrats alike, have shown they are primarily interested in raising lots of money so they can be reelected . . . which means the risk that some special provision written specifically to help a large donor will be inserted in the dead of night simply can’t be ignored. And with the Dealmaker-In-Chief in the White House, who’s going to really dive into the details of whatever gets passed, trying to make sure that the average citizen doesn’t get gored while the special interests get their perks and sweetheart deals?
Maybe it all will work out, and the tax code will be made more fair and equitable and easy to understand, and we’ll be able to file our tax returns on postcards like the photo op pictures are indicating. Maybe — but I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, I’m hanging on to my wallet.