Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s greatest minds and Founding Fathers, once declared, “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Yet sometimes, taxes are far more painful and far more despised than death.
Every year on April 15, there are the same grumblings that come with taxes 8212; how much taxes one has to pay and how confusing the whole process seems.
The complications are no joke. The United States Code is almost 17,000 pages in length, according to gpoaccess.gov. Of that, about 3,400 of these pages are regarding the Internal Revenue Code.
Title 26, the Internal Revenue Code of the U.S. Code, which was retooled by Congress in 1954, is 3,387 pages long and contains 9,833 sections. The sheer length of this code, as well as the difficult language in which it is written, likely allows only skilled accountants to understand it. Since the majority of people in the U.S. are not skilled accountants, they either make mistakes filing their taxes or hire somebody to make sure their taxes are done correctly.
The tax code, riddled with special exemptions and loopholes according to a 2005 report from the President’s Advisory Panel for Federal Tax Reform, signifies the deep, institutionalized corruption that is at the heart of American politics.
To put it bluntly, the U.S. is in dire straits financially. Both the budget deficit and the debt owed by the federal government increase with each passing year, and the majority of states are in an even worse financial situation.
Despite this gloomy financial outlook with both the government and many Americans being in debt, the tax code remains as complicated and confusing as ever. And it’s not just ordinary Americans who think the tax code is deeply in need of reform.
According to the same President’s Advisory Panel for Federal Tax Reform 2005 report, the code “requires detailed record-keeping,” and contains “lengthy instructions, complicated schedules, worksheets and forms.” The panel also stated that it “penalizes work, discourages saving and investment and hinders the competitiveness of American business.”
Another complaint of this panel was that the tax code is riddled with provisions that treat similarly situated taxpayers differently and create perceptions of unfairness. At a time in which the U.S. needs to change its attitude from one of consumption to one of investment, reform of the tax code is highly necessary.
Among the various ideas that might come with any sort of reform, let alone a herculean one such as tax reform, the most pressing idea has to be simplifying federal tax laws so ordinary citizens are able to better understand them and reducing the costs and administrative burdens that come with enforcing such complicated laws. Much time and stress would be saved for all groups involved if federal tax laws were simplified.
Another reform suggested by the panel was to share both the benefits and the burdens of the federal tax code in a fair and progressive manner. This, in essence, means that people would do their fair share in paying taxes while enjoying the benefits that taxation can bring, such as new roads and schools.
To do this, several of the special interest exemptions and loopholes that are prevalent in the current code must be done away with or closed.
At its very core, Title 26 of the U.S. Code is a bureaucratic nightmare that is highly representative of the institutionalized corruption that is at the heart of American politics. Yet it can be reformed in such a way that would be both understandable and beneficial. It is a truly daunting task, but it is one that can and must be done.
Jordan Rubio is a broadcast journalism major from San Antonio.