Biden should simplify the tax code. Trump’s taxes are just one more reason

Donald trump boasted that avoiding taxes “makes me smart.” He also suggested that his Secret Service code name should be Humble. So maybe boundless humility made him fight like a wounded wolverine to cover up the intelligence displayed in his tax returns?

No. More likely, he dreaded the sun flooding the dark financial nooks and crannies of Trump Inc. since the Manhattan district attorney snatched returns from him in their legal standoff, aided by Supreme Court muscle.

This year’s filing deadline has been extended by one month, to May 17, due to the pandemic. Shortly thereafter, average taxpayers will begin the annual labor of forgetting the tortuous 13 hours their consumed returns (or to forget the preparer’s invoice). Until then, our ex-president may be concerned about legal fees, not taxes, to defend against accusations of fraud.

Regardless of Trump’s level of personal corruption, big or small, one corrupt accomplice is already doomed: the tax code.

“The portrayal of a man who has earned hundreds of millions of dollars, lived a life of comedic excess and yet for many years paid nothing in federal income taxes is an indictment against the federal income tax system. ” So editorialized The New York Times last fall after revealing Trump’s years of microscopic or zero accountability. Times editors called for strengthening the IRS budget so that its audits of millionaires – the working poor are polled as much as the rich – are more than a Washington punchline. That’s fine as far as it goes, which isn’t far enough.

Regardless of Trump’s level of personal corruption, big or small, one corrupt accomplice is already doomed: the tax code.

Publishers should unearth their 1992 approval breakthrough tax simplification, flouting presidential candidate Jerry Brown’s flat tax plan. Originally hatched by conservative academics, the flat tax promised to strip personal and professional taxes from Byzantine loopholes with an appropriate return on a postcard.

Three decades later, we are still waiting. The Times noted last fall:

The government allows income to be tax sheltered for hundreds of different reasons … the formidable complexity of the tax code makes it difficult to tell when wealthy taxpayers have crossed legal limits. For the rich, taxation often becomes a sort of structured negotiation between taxpayer experts and government experts.

Fraud Charges Against Trump Would Give Democrats Invaluable Public Relations Victory, As They Launch higher taxes on the rich to pay for Joe Biden’s agenda. Stick it to those fat cats deadbeats! Yet the Trump installment will never pay its full and fair share unless Congress and the President burn down the confusing forest of breaks that cheaters, legal and otherwise lurk in. (The richest Americans at least hide 20% of their income.) Either we make people law-abiding angels or we simplify a convoluted code that Jerry Brown called a “Festive banquet of corruption”.

Only the second is possible. Depriving the wealthy of loopholes, thereby exposing more of their income to taxation, would raise enough money to cut rates and build a down payment towards Biden’s initiatives and / or the deficit.

Notice “lower rates” in the plural. The proposals for a pure and unique personal tax would bring huge benefits to the rich, and this is a losing political gamble, as a generation of Republican candidates and Democrat Brown learned. Adding a supplement to the flat rate for high income earners, such as some radical left thinkers proposed in 1992, would improve progressivity and political opportunities. (One of the academic authors of the flat tax is open to adding a second support as a ballast against today’s growing inequality.)

For the rich, taxation often becomes a sort of structured negotiation between taxpayer experts and government experts.

Editorial Board, The New York Times

Plausible reform would also include a hefty personal exemption to protect Americans with the lowest incomes from having to pay a lot of taxes, if any. These changes would lengthen this card return negligibly.

Numerous flaws fertilize particular rather than public interests. Real estate dealers like Trump drew the ire of The Times last year: “It’s relatively easy for real estate investors to use past losses to offset income, defer income and avoid reporting certain types of income. Better yet, the law allows investors to claim that a building depreciates – a theoretical loss of money – even if the real value increases.

Other breaks are sacrosanct to voters, right and left, and lower down the income ladder. Brown dodged of the end deductions for charitable donations and mortgage interest, although the former favors charity in the imagination of supporters more than reality, while the latter is overwhelmingly benefit the haves.

Good government would fund good causes directly and transparently: with public spending, publicly debated. Also, keep in mind that Democrats have in the past at least proposed to cap tax favoritism for mortgages. If limiting the break for McMansions extends political possibilities to the breaking point for the left today, its imaginations have been rough since 1992.

And the right? Various congressional Republicans have touted flawed flat tax regimes. Seeking their support for a thoughtful simplification would allow Biden to strut about bipartisan good faith. More importantly, he would have a chance at tax reform that would override the Trump guys’ reservation at the corruption banquet.

Whether the Conservatives would collaborate with the President is certainly a question, given that they now revere a “stable genius” who lets them and everyone else hold the sack for their part of national defense, feed the people. starving and Uncle Sam’s other obligations.

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