TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, December 28, 2008

President-Elect Obama, Don't Use the Tax Code to Implement Your Agenda

L.A. Times: Contemplating a Bold Agenda, Mr. Obama? Don't Use the Tax Code as a Tool, by Kathy M. Kristof:

Maybe it's because tax season is looming ominously -- or maybe it was your long list of campaign promises -- but taxes are at the top of my mind when thinking about my financial wishes for 2009.

My one overriding hope: that you will show far greater courage than your three most recent predecessors when tinkering with the tax code.

What does courage have to do with taxes? At the moment, not a thing. The U.S. tax code is riddled with complexity ultimately caused by a lack of courage. And this complexity makes it virtually impossible for most Americans to file accurate tax returns -- with or without help. ...

Mr. President-elect, you have identified a number of worthy things you want the government to help pay for: child care, college, clean vehicles and healthcare. And you want to accomplish all that with new tax breaks.

These are popular ideas. But I'm asking you -- pleading, really -- not to do it. If you want to fund a social program, go for it. But have the courage to do it directly. ...

President-elect Obama, we taxpayers need you to be brave. We need you to stare down the forces of obfuscation and call social programs social programs. If you can justify them, fund them. But don't hide them in the tax code.

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It's interesting to wonder how much influence the Chicago school has had on Obama. Of course, he's not a monetarist -- but if he thinks that adding more complexity to the tax code will do more good for the average taxpayer, he's clearly assuming something like perfect information.

Posted by: taxrascal | Dec 31, 2008 8:06:27 AM