Volcker Panel: Simplify the Tax Code « The Washington Independent
After 18 months of intensive study, the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board has released (PDF) a comprehensive review of the country’s tax code and made recommendations for simplification.
The board notes that the tax code has changed so often — 15,000 times since a major 1986 tax overhaul — it is impossible to keep up with and confusing for families. And the report explains that the dizzying profusion of credits and deductions frays filers’ nerves and makes them less likely to claim eligible or appropriate credits. That is particularly harmful for low-income families, often eligible for dozens of overlapping credits.
Taxpayers and businesses spend 7.6 billion hours and incur significant out-of-pocket expenses each year complying with federal income tax filing requirements. In monetary terms, these costs are roughly equivalent to at least one percent of GDP annually (or about $140 billion in 2008). These costs are more than 12 times the IRS budget and amount to about 10 cents per dollar of income tax receipts. The IRS estimated that for 2008, taxpayers filing Form 1040 spent an average of 21.4 hours on federal tax-related matters.
The 120-page report contains a number of recommendations, among them: Bring down the corporate tax rate, which at 35 percent is the second-highest among industrialized countries, and simplify taxes for families and individuals. Doing so would not only help ease the strain of preparing taxes on families, but would improve compliance, the report says. Incorrect individual and family filings make up the bulk of the “tax gap,” the difference between what the government thinks it should collect and what it does.