TaxProf Blog

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

Saturday, February 8, 2014

NY Times: The Tax Wilderness, Untamed

WildernessNew York Times:  The Tax Wilderness, Untamed, by Jonathan Wesiman:

When Americans of a certain income level sit down to do their taxes this year, they may be in for an unpleasant surprise: The tax code, already byzantine, has grown even more complex — yet the prospects for a major improvement seem to have retreated into the distance.

Major leadership changes to the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, combined with a reluctance in the House Republican leadership to confront the issue and an Obama administration focused only on the corporate tax code, add up to a consensus in Washington: It’s virtually certain that there will be no comprehensive tax code overhaul this year, regardless of the promises that will surely ring out of the Capitol or the money that may keep flowing to Washington lobbyists promising their corporate clients that the time has finally come. ...

There is widespread agreement in Congress that the tax system needs a major overhaul.

“The fact is, the federal tax code is a dysfunctional, broken mess,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, who has replaced Mr. Baucus at the helm of the Finance Committee. “At a time when we want a tax system that encourages growth and innovation, what we have is this jerry-built creature where there have been thousands and thousands of changes since the last major reform.”

In some circles, Mr. Wyden’s outspoken criticism had led to a degree of optimism for change. For example, Representative Charles Boustany Jr. of Louisiana, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, said the transition in the Senate shouldn’t slow the cause of simplifying the tax code, which has been embraced broadly by House Republican backbenchers, though not deeply by the House Republican leadership. Mr. Camp still hopes to unveil a broad rewrite of the tax code in the coming weeks, and many House Republicans are eager to embrace the cause as a vision to take to voters — even if House leaders are reluctant.

(Hat Tip: Mike Talbert.)

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