Sunday, April 17, 2011

Message to IRS: Please lock me up

When are tax returns due? Monday. (I wrote that for SEO purposes)

My copy of the New York Times today has two essays on David Foster Wallace, who taught creative writing at Pomona College before his death. Wallace had become intrigued with the culture around the IRS and tax accountants.

This will only take a minute.
Turns out, literary critic Edmund Wilson did not do a return for nine consecutive years. I'm sure Wilson had much more money than me to report, but it hits me year after year how much time all of us spend doing tax returns -- keep receipts, digging up receipts for license tabs (why are they deductible), mortgage statements showing deductible interest (unfair to renters as a social policy). Too many of us just go to accountants because its all so confusing, but if you do it yourself you can be staggered by the needless complexity, the deductibles the exist only for the rich or the beneficiaries of lobbyists (cosmetic surgery, digging for oil, etc.) At state and federal levels, there is talk of closing tax loopholes -- when pigs fly -- while also talking about raising the retirement age for Medicare (far more likely).

Personally, I would gladly pay more taxes, much more taxes, if I could be freed to spend my capitalist productive entrepreneurial time creating jobs, or to be honest,  watching "American Idol," or reading a book. Oddly, one guy -- and he was odd, Steve Forbes -- ran for president years ago on a flat tax. (Not completely flat, he allowed some deductions.) He was trashed for pushing an idea that would have negative consequences to this or that group. No doubt true because deductions for charities and the arts would go away, but so too would loopholes that allowed GE to pay less in taxes than me.

For starters, I would gladly pay what I would otherwise pay for TuboTax straight to a national debt reduction account or improvements for college financial aid.

Among the outrages of our present system are the millions of  20-somethngs who make modest salaries, with taxes taken out of their checks. The vast majority of these young people never file a return to get back at least a portion of what the government has pocketed.

Our tax code is so complex at 14,000 pages, counting the code and regulations, that 60 percent of Americans hire somebody to do it. Not even the Commissioner of the IRS, Douglas Shulman, does his own taxes. And this is a guy who's gotta be better at math than me.
Commissioner Shulman holds a B.A. from Williams College, an M.P.A. from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center... and still needs somebody else to do his taxes.

President Obama has promised to simplify the tax code,  a promise nearly every president has made since the IRS was created. Obama called the press code "monstrous." That's one promise I don't expect to be kept, but think of America's collective waste of time and energy doing all this. So Mr. President, put me down as willing to pay more but make it easier. Till then, how about adding one more regulation to the tax code. By law, the IRS Commissioner must do his own tax return live on CSPAN.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.