Either simplify federal tax or cue Godzilla

I waited until the very last second to file my federal and state income taxes this year. Actually, I wait until the last second every year, hoping against hope that maybe a UFO might land in Manhattan or Godzilla might pop up in the Pacific Ocean, causing everyone at the IRS to conveniently forget about April 15.

No such luck again this year.

I never get a refund. Each year I hold my breath, do my taxes, and then inevitably rumble around the house for the next 48 hours slamming doors, kicking furniture and muttering the ugliest of obscenities. Sanity only returns when my sidekick and best pal Ozzy gazes deeply into my eyes and hits me with the patented golden retriever tilted head smile. The Ozman is not much help as far as tax expertise goes, but when his tail is wagging, he is terrific at anger management.

This year was the perfect storm. The few deductions I once enjoyed were all eliminated while the generous deductions that remained didn't pertain to me. The elimination of the un-reimbursed employee expenses deduction hit me, and many others, particularly hard. You can no longer deduct certain work expenses and the mileage deduction has disappeared.

I am digging deep, real deep, in 2019 to pay for my minuscule 2018 weekly increase in salary. And I'm not the only one. I would estimate more than half of the people I have talked with are less than euphoric with the bottom-line, win/loss results from President Trump’s tax cuts. Most people saw modest gains in their weekly paycheck but wound up giving much of it back on April 15.

Don't mistake my less than enthusiastic reaction to my personal 2018 tax returns as an indication that I am against tax cuts. I am always for giving people more access to their money. More money in people’s pockets grows the economy. It's a very simple idea. When you give individuals more of their own money to spend, they will go out and buy goods and services and that in turn will create more jobs. Those new employees at those new jobs will also turn into taxpayers.

It is like throwing a pebble into a pond. The economic ripple effect is felt by everyone. You learn that on the first day in college Eco 101.

The tax system as revamped by the Republican Congress and signed by the president is still too complex and unfair. I subscribe to the theory the simplest solution is usually the best solution. Recall Sen. Ted Cruz’s proposal, when he was running for president, that we would be able to do our taxes on the back of an index card.

A flat tax with bare bone deductions is still the best way to go. With that approach everyone has skin in the game and the people with the highest incomes still carry the majority of the burden. Currently, approximately 76.4 million or 44.4 percent of Americans won’t pay any federal income tax in 2018, according to estimates from the Tax Policy Center, a nonprofit joint venture by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. Once that figure reaches 50 percent, then we will be in that unenviable position where more people are riding in the boat than rowing it.

A simple flat tax with one single limited deduction for each adult and each child is the best solution. Hang the tax rate at 18 percent and end the complexity that gives politicians and bureaucrats so much power. A flat tax will help us scale back and eliminate the power of the special interest groups and crony capitalists. Banish the loopholes and require everyone to pay their fair share.

An example might be a family of four making $50,000 a year would get $10,000 per adult and $5,000 per child under the age of 18 as a deduction. That’s a total of $30,000 in deductions. That would mean the household would be taxed on $20,000 at 18 percent and contribute $3,600 in federal taxes.

It’s simple, efficient and it would be effective. Under my plan, all businesses, from the largest multinational to a corner deli or bar would play by the same rules. Companies would add up their receipts (how much revenue came in) and then subtract their costs (salaries, cost of raw materials, and expenses for new tools and machinery). They would be taxed at 18 percent on the difference.

A flat tax would end the IRS as we've known it. The most domineering and ruthless organization within the fabric of Washington would lose its intimidating status, reduced to a group of simple bean counters.

Lee Elci is the morning host for 94.9 News Now radio, a station that provides "Stimulating Talk" with a conservative bent.

 

 

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