Tags: Samuelson | tax | reform | dying

Washington Post’s Samuelson: Tax Reform Is ‘Dying’

Friday, 07 Dec 2012 01:02 PM

By Michael Kling

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Tax reform is “dying,” laments Washington Post opinion writer Robert Samuelson.

The idea of tax reform is to cut tax rates and recover lost revenue by ending or curtailing tax breaks. Bipartisan agreement about tax reform in the 1980s helped pass the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which Samuelson calls "the best tax law since World War II."

The goal of the 1986 tax reform, which lowered rates and broadened the tax base, was to boost economic growth, simplify the tax code and lessen the use of lobbying for tax breaks.

Editor's Note: Tiny Loophole Found in 70,320 Page IRS Tax Code Could Pay $87,500

Those goals have “faded,” he says.

"The 1986 law was better than what we have today and, almost certainly, better than what we will have tomorrow," he writes. "It depended on bipartisan support and White House leadership. There is now little of either."

While House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has proposed closing loopholes, President Barack Obama advocates the opposite of tax reform: raising tax rates.

"This turns traditional tax 'reform' on its head," Samuelson writes.

Obama's argument that closing loopholes will not raise enough income is “bogus,” according to Samuelson. Capping itemized deductions at $17,000 for couples and $8,500 for singles would raise $1.7 trillion over a decade, he says, citing the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Capping deductions would increase taxes for some middle-class households, he admits, "but these could be managed with adequate political will. Unfortunately, it's missing."

Obama seems unwilling to confront the groups favoring tax breaks, he says. Charities want the charitable deduction, the real estate industry demands the mortgage interest deduction and state and local governments want the tax deduction.

Opposition to eliminating or reducing tax deductions would certainly be fierce. For instance, Democrats are sure to adamantly oppose any curtailing of the tax deduction for state and local taxes, according to CNNMoney. That's because the states they represent have some of the highest tax rates, including California, New York and Massachusetts.

Most state and local tax deductions are filed in seven high-wage, high-tax blue states, CNNMoney reports, citing data from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

Editor's Note: Tiny Loophole Found in 70,320 Page IRS Tax Code Could Pay $87,500

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