Tax Reform

PwC Toeing Thin Line Between Independent Auditor and Client Lobbyist for Tax Reform

Francine McKenna of MarketWatch reported on July 30 that PwC has earned $10.74 million since 2013 as the exclusive registered lobbyist on tax reform for a coalition that includes several audit clients, which some say is a conflict of interest. Members of the Alliance for Competitive Taxation—which calls itself “a group of America’s leading companies […]

donald trump tax reform

Donald Trump’s Quest to Put H&R Block Out of Business Looking Like a Total Failure

During the presidential campaign, bellowing fast food connoisseur Donald J. Trump said that his tax policy was to “Put H&R Block out of business.” So, how’s that going? Well, last month he said, “We’re going to simplify very greatly the tax code. It’s too complicated. H&R Block probably won’t be too happy,” adding, “Other than […]

A Three-Page Tax Code Would Keep Accountants Plenty Busy

The US tax code is too complicated. This is known. In the race for president, like all races for president in recent memory, candidates promise a simpler tax code. Close this loophole, eliminate that credit, CUT EVERY RATE IN SIGHT. It's all just theater, albeit, incredibly boring theater. Taxes are boring and complicated and they […]

The Boredom of Tax Reform, Explained

TBH, if tax reform were a sport, it would be soccer because everyone thinks something is about to happen, and then it doesn't. — Richard Rubin (@RichardRubinDC) August 6, 2015

AICPA Mansplains Sound Tax Reform to Dudes Trying to Tax Reform

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) just took over as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and the AICPA couldn’t resist sending him a letter telling him how to do his job. In his letter, Troy Lewis, the chairman of the AICPA’s Tax Executive Committee, was sure to tell Ryan that “the AICPA supports comprehensive […]

It’s Not Accrual World For These Forty-Six Senators Who Are All For Cash Accounting

You may have heard that the Senate is considering, as part of tax reform, to require many cash basis businesses to make the switch to accrual. Because nothing says "reform" like using the method that doesn't actually require money changing hands. Well, the AICPA hates the idea. I'm sure you thought what I did at […]

Dave Camp’s Tax Reform Plan Cuts Lots of Breaks, Trees

The top Republican tax-writer in Congress proposed restructuring the U.S. tax code to eliminate dozens of breaks to pay for reductions in the corporate and individual rates. The 979-page plan from Representative Dave Camp would mark the biggest changes to the U.S. tax system since 1986, affecting every part of the U.S. economy. The proposal includes new […]

Baucus Proposal Would Give ‘Legal Authority’ to Regulate Tax Preparers

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) released Part Deux of his tax reform proposal today and it mostly addresses penalties for identity theft as well as securing the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File. As enthralling as all this sounds, Baucus's plan also would give "legal authority" for the IRS to regulate tax preparers. A judge brought […]

GOP Congressional Members Aren’t Going to Give Up on Their Favorite Pastime to Focus on Tax Reform

Congressman Dave Camp's (R-MI) vision for tax reform is lower rates with fewer credits and deductions. Seems simple enough. If he manages to succeed in getting a bill out of the Ways and Means Committee however, he'll have to get past two major obstacles:   1) Congressional Members who like the idea of tax reform, […]

Anyone Feeling Nostalgic for Tax Reform Today Can Stare at This Photo as Long as They Need To

Our tax system will probably stay a clusterfuck for another 100 years, but we'll always have the Tax Reform Act of 1986! Today is the 27th birthday of the Act and judging by the political climate in DC, it'll have many more happy returns. For anyone longing for resurrections of Ronald Reagan, Dan Rostenkowski or […]

Welp, Here Are Three Big Deductions That Aren’t Getting Eliminated in Tax Reform

Now that our elected officials have finished not doing anything about the budget and debt ceiling, they have ample time to get back to not doing anything about other things. Like tax reform! Senator Max Baucus is the chairman of the Finance Committee meaning he's responsible for getting a bill out of the upper chamber. […]

Okay Everyone, We Need a Collective Noun for Corporate Tax Lobbyists

Don't forget, a "murder" is taken.   If a gaggle is a group of geese, what is the word for the group of corporate tax lobbyists/execs that just poured out of Dave Camp's office? — Richard Rubin (@RichardRubinDC) September 19, 2013 What about a "hatchet of lobbyists"? Or a "fatcat"? Is a "Gucci of lobbyists" […]

Go Ahead and Ask Harry Reid if Tax Reform Can Be Revenue Neutral; Just Ask Him

Any tax overhaul “has to be under the total understanding that this can’t be revenue-neutral,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat. “It can’t be even close to neutral. It has to be a significant tax target.” [Bloomberg]

U.S. Senators with Harebrained Tax Reform Ideas Offered an Opportunity

The Senate's top tax writers have promised their colleagues 50 years worth of secrecy in exchange for suggestions on what deductions and credits to protect in tax reform. Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), are telling skeptical lawmakers that any submission they receive will not be released by […]

The IRS Scandal Has Made the Long Odds of Passing Tax Reform Even Longer

Until last Friday, tax reform seemed to be working a steady pace towards…something. I mean, Max & Dave have both a Twitter account and a website dedicated to the cause so you know they were getting serious about the thing. This kind of effort is enough to get the ghost of Ronald Reagan wandering around DC […]

Why Yes, Tax Reform Can Get More Complicated

Juggling all the aspects of income tax reform is quite a task. Here's a mind dump of a few of the elements involved: Credits Deductions Tax-exempt income The treatment of pass-throughs How much marginal rates should be cut If more revenue should be raised How carried interest is treated The capital gains rate Transfer pricing […]

Social Media’s Ideas for Tax Reform Can’t Be Worse Than Anything That’s Been Kicked Around So Far

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) report in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that since Congress has spent ample time listening to interest groups, it's about time they got really serious about tax reform: In the coming weeks, we will give you the opportunity to provide your input as well. No need to […]

Maybe Dave Camp’s Pass-through Proposal Doesn’t Address Carried Interest So It Won’t Invite Unfortunate War Analogies

Victor Fleischer writes at DealBook that Michigan Congressman Dave Camp's proposal to simplify partnership and S-Corp tax law may be too simple. It's not that Professor Fleischer doesn't like simple, it sounds like he does. And he also likes that Camp gave everyone a couple of options. But Camp's more "radical" option is missing some details […]

Members of Congress Seem Surprised That Tax Reform Meetings with Interest Groups Would Arouse Cynicism

Last month, the House Ways and Means Committee announced that it was creating eleven working groups to kickstart this tax reform idea that's been thrown around. At the time the effort was described as a "fact-finding mission" which is funny because facts are not something Congress is known to have a firm grasp of. REGARDLESS! This […]

Tax Nerds Feeling Vindicated After Their Long-held Viewpoints Are Paid Lip Service

Tax Policy Center co-director Eric Toder is feeling good today. Why? Some people known for not doing much of anything productive are saying things that sound remarkably like some people who plan to do something productive! The House Ways and Means Committee, in a letter signed by all its Republican members to Budget Committee Chairman […]

If a Symbolic Gesture Doesn’t Convince You That John Boehner Is Serious About Tax Reform, Then Nothing Will

If there's one thing that members of Congress love to pretend to be serious about, it's tax reform. They talk a lot about the importance of tax reform; they pledge to do such-and-such with regards to tax reform; they say tax reform is their "top priority." But, as we have seen, little action has been […]

Politicians Incorrectly Demonizing “Tax Loopholes” Is Old Hat

Today, Christopher Bergin explains how our elected officials butcher the term "tax loophole": For now, let’s look at the Republicans (trust me, I plan to get to the Democrats, too). When Republicans talk about tax reform, they say they mean that they want to close loopholes to increase revenue and make the system better. OK, […]

Hold the Phone, John Boehner Didn’t Say Anything About Taxes Going Up

Admittedly, The Speaker sounds like he's ready to deal but you'd be a damn fool to think that he's going to roll over: With President Obama reelected and Republicans returned to a slightly smaller majority in the House, Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday’s election amounted to a plea from voters for the parties to lay down […]

Chuck Schumer Won’t Have Any of This Tax Cuts for the Wealthy Talk

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted that many of the reform plans that are under discussion in Washington would cut tax rates for everyone by eliminating or reducing deductions — the same model that was used during the last major rewrite of the tax code in 1986.  “But in the upcoming talks on the fiscal cliff, […]

All of Mitt Romney’s Fancy Schmancy Tax Planning Strategies Should Serve as a Reminder That We Really, Really Need Tax Reform

Yesterday, we told you about Jesse Drucker's stellar report on Mitt Romney's "I Dig It" trust and how it allows his family to pass along wealth to the younger generations with relatively little taxes being paid. It was the latest of many reports and scoops on Willard's finances and really, we shouldn't be surprised. He […]

Summing Up Tax Policy in This Presidential Election

Tax Analysts' Chris Bergin doesn't like what he heard from Mitt Romney yesterday: In a taped interview, host [Meet the Press host] David Gregory repeatedly asked Romney for details of his tax plan. He ended up practically begging for just one detail – any morsel, please. He got zip, zilch, nothing. […] I can think […]

The Wall Street Journal, For One, Has No Problem Making Mitt Romney’s Tax Plan Mathematically Possible

Late yesterday (or for you nostalgic types, in today's print edition), the Wall Street Journal published an editorial that goes after the Brookings Institution and Tax Policy Center for their analysis of Mitt Romney's tax plan. The long-short of the analysis is that, given what has been said by Mittens re: tax reform, there is […]

Democrats Concerned That Republicans Want to Take Their Tax Reform Ball and Go Home

In case you weren't already aware, our nation's tax code is a mess. And not your run-of-the-mill mess that can be tidied up before company comes over; this is more of a dirty-dishes-on-the-floor-ring-around-the-entire-bathroom-kitchen-smells-like-the-dumpster-what-the-hell-is-that?-is-that-dog-piss? mess. Both political parties believe that reform is needed, but that's where the agreement ends.  The Republicans would like to cut tax […]

It’s Nice to Know That Tax Credits Aren’t Going Completely to Waste

This is what happens when tax breaks are used as political favors: Tax consultants estimate that eligible businesses obtain as little as 5% of the main domestic tax breaks that they are entitled to claim. That means firms are leaving tens of billions of dollars on the table every year. Out of 1.78 million corporate […]

If Mitt Romney Releases His Tax Returns He Could Be the Next Richard Nixon

As we all know, 1% posterboy and GOP presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney hasn't released any of his tax returns. Check that – he hasn't released in tax returns that anyone cares about. Mittens is of the opinion that 2010 and 2011 are the only tax returns we need to see. Many people disagree. As […]

Congressional Leader Clearly Knows Nothing About Congress’ Capabilities

The Hill reports that jolly orange giant John Boehner is speaking at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation today and he's telling the crowd that when Congress finally gets around to tax reform, they'll be coupled with an extension of the Bush tax cuts. “Any sudden tax hike would hurt our economy, so this fall — […]

You’ve Got the Tax Code All Wrong

Christopher Bergin explains: Our tax code isn’t about collecting revenue. It’s about taking care of political friends and being used as a campaign election issue to divide and conquer the electorate.  Okay, I think I understand. And sooooo, what about tax reform?   The point of Washington is to get reelected. And “can-kicking” – which […]

Kids! Join the Voluntary Tax Accountant Extinction Movement!

  The world doesn’t owe us a living. Of course you know that.  If you thought the world did owe you a living, you wouldn’t have gotten that Accounting degree.  You’d have gone for that much easier Critical Gender Studies or 19th-Century American History ticket.  But even when you get that first tax accountant job, […]

Mitt Romney Would Like To See You Try Scoring His Tax Plan. Just Try It.

Fresh off his Super Tuesday meh, Mitt Romney went on CNBC and made a strange admission that his tax plan is not a real plan, per se:  “What I put out in my plan was a series of principles that allow our economy to grow and at the same time maintain a neutral budget impact,” […]

Joe the Plumber Will Tackle Tax Reform If Elected to Congress

Samuel Wurzelbacher (aka Joe the Plumber) is running for Congress. Yep! The man who became a hero to uncounted conservative Americans for having a slightly contentious driveway moment with then-candidate Barack Obama wants to represent the citizens of Ohio's 9th Congressional District. Despite his claims to be an outsider, JdaP has a pretty sophisticated campaign going […]

Here’s the President’s Framework for Business Tax Reform

At 23 pages, it's nearly readable! But it's still wonky tax stuff so it's not exactly breezy. Via the TaxProf here are the five elements (and the whole document is below): I. Eliminate dozens of tax loopholes and subsidies, broaden the base and cut the corporate tax rate to spur growth in America: The Framework would […]

Grover Norquist Has a Suggestion for Mitt Romney

Newt Gingrich nemesis Mitt Romney told Larry Kudlow last week that "phase two" of his tax plan was in the works but Godfather of Anti-Tax Policy Grover Norquist thinks he should save his energy. “The smart move is to say, ‘I’m with Paul Ryan,’” Norquist says. “Then it’s not ‘his plan,’ and [Romney] can simply […]

This Tax Reform Stuff Can Wait

[I]f we are going to make real progress, we can’t fixate on every overhyped, half-baked tax slogan that comes along. Sooner or later we must get back to basics. Here’s the main question: Should taxes be cut, raised, or reformed without changing overall revenue? The answer is that taxes should be cut in the short term, raised after we are clearly out of our cyclical downturn, and then reformed only after we have settled on the magnitude of tax increases needed for deficit reduction. [Martin Sullivan]

Who’s Afraid of Tax Reform?

The last time I saw the family dentist while I was in college, he asked me what I was studying. When I told him I was studying tax accounting, he got a strange, smug look on his face and asked, “what are you going to do when there is a flat tax?”

It’s been almost 30 years since I saw that dentist, and so far I’ve dodged the flat tax bullet. There has been one big tax reform since I started public accounting, and next to getting fired by good old Price Waterhouse, The Tax Reform of 1986 has been the best thing that happened to my career.


The 1986 Tax Reform Act’s 25th anniversary is tomorrow. With talk of radical tax reform in the air, from Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan to Rick Perry’s embrace of an old-fashioned flat tax, young tax nerds may lose sleep worrying that this time tax careers really will be legislated out of existence.

Go back to bed. For young tax nerds, radical change can be a huge career boost.

The 1986 tax reforms were enacted during my third year out of school. The local office of my national firm was going to put on a big client seminar, and I was put in charge of organizing the presentation. In the pre-Internet days, we got one paperback copy of the legislation, which I tore apart at the bindings so the presenters could have their part of the law. I proofread the slides, sent them to the photographer, and then manually arranged the presentation in the slide carousel (there was no PowerPoint, kids).

The seminar came off well (I did passive losses), which helped keep me (and the evil manager who didn’t like me) from getting me fired again. But in the following weeks the real benefit began to dawn on me — thanks to tax reform, I suddenly knew more about most of the tax law than everybody in the office who outranked me — including the evil manager. It got me promoted quickly, and it gave me much-needed credibility a few years later when a bunch of us went over the wall to start a new firm.

If there is radical tax reform, it will trash a lot of accumulated tax trivia knowledge that experienced tax nerds trade on. But it will also create huge opportunities for young, smart nerds who are willing to learn the new rules. It will be a great leveller in the profession, and a huge advantage to the young and strong.

But it will probably make it almost impossible for me to sell my collection of 1986 Tax Act books for a good price on e-Bay.

John Boehner Asking Supercomittee for a Small Favor

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will call on the deficit-reduction supercommittee to lay the foundation for an overhaul of the tax code in a speech to the Economic Club of Washington on Thursday. In an address timed as a response to President Obama’s jobs plan, Boehner plans to restate his opposition to tax increases either to pay for job-creation measures or to reduce the deficit, according to a preview circulated by his office. Yet the Speaker is expected to voice support for closing loopholes as part of broader tax reform, which could include eliminating tax breaks for oil companies and other industries. [OTM/The Hill]

Somewhere in Mitt Romney’s 59-point Economic Plan, There’s Something About Tax Reform

That’s right boys and girls. Our economy is such a jumbled clusterfuck that Presidential Ken Doll Mitt Romney and his team had to lay out 59 specific proposals to get this thing turned around. In a USA Today op-ed, Mittens laid out a little preview of this plan and it includes – YEP! – cutting taxes and ultimately overhauling the tax code:

Marginal income tax rates and tax rates on savings and investment must be kept low. Further, taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for middle-income taxpayers should be eliminated. Our corporate tax rate is among the world’s highest. It leaves U.S. firms at a competitive disadvantage and induces them to park their profits abroad, benefiting the rest of the world at our expense. I will fix these problems with permanent solutions. Ultimately, I will press for a total overhaul of our overly complex and inefficient system of taxation.

Romney seems to be following Jon Huntsman’s lead but for fortunately for Mittens, Huntmsan’s plan wasn’t bulleted and no one heard the speech.

Romney: My plan to turn around the U.S. economy [UST]

Some People Don’t Care to Mince Words on Jon Huntsman’s Tax Reform Plan

[L]et’s just call this Huntsman plan what it really is: a huge, highly confused, poorly defended giveaway to people who earn lots of money from their investments. For people who can live off investment gains, it delivers the pleasure of a tax-free lifestyle. [Joseph Thorndike]

Jon Huntsman Has a Plan for Tax Reform

Unheard-of GOP Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman isn’t doing so well in the race for his party’s nomination. This is probably due to the fact that he seems like a fairly pragmatic fellow and pragmatism isn’t really something that fits in the GOP agenda. I mean, COME ON, the man believes in evolution and trusts scientists on climate change. Clearly he’s going nowhere with those kinds of policy positions.

So, in what will likely amount to another failed attempt to bring some sense to the GOP narrative, Huntsman will give a speech on tax reform and various other issues in New Hampshire.

Huntsman will lay out his plans for tax and regulatory reform, energy independence and free trade in a New Hampshire speech that’s being billed as perhaps the last best chance for Huntsman, who stands far behind the GOP frontrunners in polls, to establish himself as a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. “Meeting our challenges will require serious solutions, but above all, it will require serious leadership – a quality in high demand in our nation’s capital, and among my opponents on the campaign trail,” Huntsman will say, according to excerpts released by his campaign. The centerpiece of the plan is a proposal to reform tax rates. The Huntsman plan would eliminate all loopholes, deductions and tax exemptions in exchange for establishing three individual income brackets, taxed at eight, 14 and 23 percent. The Huntsman plan would also eliminate capital gains and dividend taxes, do away with the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent.

Now all he has to do is mention God’s role in all of this and he’ll be the frontrunner.

Huntsman to unveil sweeping tax reform [The Hill]

This Year’s AICPA Council Issues Are (Mostly) All About Taxes

Let’s all keep in mind here that the repeal of burdensome 1099 rules buried in the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (or “Obamacare” for my fellow right-wing nutjobs out there) can be directly traced to efforts by the AICPA and its members, including a few angry letters sent by the AICPA to Congress. It’s a perfect example of legislative action at work, for those of you out there with little faith in the process.

Here are this year’s key issues:

Tax Strategy Patents S 139 The Equal Access of 2011
The bill would stop the granting of patents for tax strategies. Which basically means your next door cube-dweller won’t be able to patent his favorite spreadsheet.

Tax Due Dates S 845 Tax Return Due Date Simplification and Modernization Act of 2011
This bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the logical flow of return information between partnerships, corporations, trusts, estates, and individuals to better enable each party to submit timely, accurate returns and reduce the need for extended and amended returns, to provide for modified due dates by regulation, and to conform the automatic corporate extension period to longstanding regulatory rule. The short version: it seeks to change the dates on which tax returns are due to a more sensible pattern.

Simplification of the tax code
The AICPA has a long history of advocating sound tax policy; this year, it’s all about simplifying the tax code, starting with the repeal of AMT and consolidating education provisions.

Workforce Mobility HR 1864 Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2011
Unlike previous mobility initiatives, this one would limit the authority of states to tax certain income of employees in other states. Thanks to the Internet, many companies are able to staff employees around the country, some of which only do a few hours of work a month. That means the company must register and withhold state taxes for these employees in each state.

“Our tax laws are a vital component of the economic health of our nation as evidenced by the discussion in Washington about tax reform,” Barry Melancon, president and CEO of the AICPA, said. “We think it’s important for members of Congress to talk taxes with CPAs as they consider changes to the law. CPAs can provide objective advice, based on real-world experience.”

The goal of Congressional visits is to exchange information with our Congressional members on legislative issues of concern to CPAs (and, directly related to CPAs’ concerns, those of their clients) and to garner support for the profession’s position on these issues, as well as to position CPAs as resources and thought leaders. To call it lobbying would be a misnomer as lobbying would imply a one-way relationship, beneficial only to the special interest doing the lobbying. So don’t even go there; we’re talking about providing professional analysis, opinion and expertise in exchange for a voice in legislation that could potentially impact hundreds of thousands of CPAs and CPA firms around the country.

For the CPAs on the Hill yesterday, they not only presented their issues but offered themselves as experts in areas many Congressional offices are unfamiliar with. Tweaking the tax code is a delicate issue, and one that shouldn’t be approached without expert analysis of any proposed legislation. This is where the two-way street comes in, and another reason why these visits are important for all involved parties.

We’ll update later with specifics on the day we spent meeting Maryland Congressional members with the MACPA Council and Executive Committee, including former MACPA Chair and amazing storyteller Larry Kamanitz, who made 60 cents an hour when he first got into public. Stay tuned!

Tim Geithner: We’ll ‘Take a Run’ at Tax Reform Before the Election

Eraserhead doppelgänger Tim Geithner has said that tax reform is coming but you shouldn’t really expect things to get started before Labor Day. If we’re lucky For starters, this tax stuff is complicated and secondly, this debt ceiling discussion is all the rage right now:

Geithner said the Obama administration hopes to take up the issue of tax simplification before the presidential election in 2012 but he signaled the issue is on hold for now. “I think realistically this fiscal debate we’re having is going to dominate our preoccupation for the next couple of months,” Geithner said in response to a question after remarks to the Harvard Club in New York.

But don’t worry, since the GOP has made it abundantly clear that raising taxes are off the table, the administration will definitely call attention to their uncooperative attitude well before the election:

Geithner said the administration would like “to take a run at doing this ahead of the election. That means we’ve got to start but we also need to get this fiscal stuff on a better trajectory.”

Geithner says overhaul of tax code must wait [Reuters]

Is Everyone Aware That There Is a Chicken Sh*t Tax Credit?

Tax wonk Len Burman wrote a letter-cum-blog post to Jon Stewart today over at TaxVox explaining how there really is spending in the tax code through tax credits. You see, Stewart gave President Obama a hard time last month about “reducing spending in the tax code” which JS wrongly interpreted as Newspeak. Burman then goes on to give an shitty perfect example of just how ridiculous tax credits have gotten (in case you weren’t aware already):

You don’t believe there’s spending in the tax code??? Here’s a real life example: the chicken-s**t tax credit. Really, section 45 of the Internal Revenue Code. You can look it up. The late Senator Roth of Delaware (home of lots of chickens and “poultry manure,” as it’s euphemistically called) put this little goody into our tax laws. Here’s the backstory: the EPA said that enormous chicken farms could no longer put their poultry waste in pools or bury it because it poisoned the ground water. One of the best options to meet the new requirement was to dry the vile effluent and burn it to make electricity, but that was still costly. Roth didn’t want chicken farmer profits to plummet or chicken and egg prices to rise just because farmers couldn’t use the earth as a giant toilet, so he pushed through the chicken s**t tax credit to create a profitable market for that (as well as all sorts of other crap).

Burman not only explains to Stewart that using tax credits to keep chicken feces out of the water isn’t a good thing but by mocking the President, he also may have inadvertently helped tax executioner Grover Norquist:

Arch-conservative Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, leader of the bipartisan “gang of six,” has said that he’d support tax increases so long as they didn’t include rate increases. That is, he wants to rein in subsidy programs run by the IRS.

This is important. Coburn was willing to take on Grover Norquist, who has very effectively prevented any sensible compromise on the budget by insisting that cutting tax subsidies would violate the taxpayer protection pledge that he strong-armed most Republicans to sign. Now Grover can use your laugh line to reinforce Republican intransigence and doom any chance of bipartisan cooperation.

And to indirectly (or perhaps directly) support taxpayer funding of chicken-shitless water.

Jon Stewart’s Fake News on Tax Expenditures [TaxVox]

Grover Norquist Knows What It Will Take to Enact Real Tax Reform

Nemesis of all-things-taxation Grover Norquist believes that there can be good changes to our tax system (lower rates, DUH!). But seriously, as Ronald Reagan as his witness, this is really simple,

“A lot of good tax changes are going to require a different president and a different Senate.” So at the very least, you’ll have to wait two years. That’s all. [The Hill]

Paul Ryan Is No Ronald Reagan

Charles Krauthammer […] writes that the “most scurrilous” criticism of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan is that it would cut taxes for the rich. This would, he says, be akin to making the same claim against the Ronald Reagan-Bill Bradley 1986 tax reform. Krauthammer goes on to assert that Ryan’s plan is “classic tax reform” that … broadens the base by eliminating loopholes. The facts are otherwise. The Ryan plan, at least what we know of it, would inarguably cut taxes for the rich. It in no way resembles the 1980s tax reforms of either President Reagan or Senator Bill Bradley and Representative Dick Gephardt. And it most assuredly fails to eliminate loopholes. [TaxVox, WaPo]

Paul Ryan: Tax Reform Hero?

It is fine for Republicans to refuse to raise taxes as long as they admit we must have significant cuts in entitlements. Ryan is leading the way for the Republicans. For this he deserves kudos. It is fine for Democrats to refuse cutting entitlements as long as they admit we must have significant tax increases. Nobody is leading the Democrats. And politics requires that the President stall because he cannot even hint at a tax increase before the 2012 election. [Martin Sullivan]

BREAKING: Tax Reform Will Be a Long Process

Yesterday in a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) said that he would like a “weekly set of get-togethers” to address reforming our tax code. You see, Baucus was having similar weekly hearings for two years leading up to the healthcare reform bill that was passed last year. And since those were such a hoot, he figures attacking a equally polarizing issue like tax reform will demand a similar strategy. However, witnesses before the committee – all former assistant Treasury secretaries for tax policy – warned that this debate will likely haunt our dreams and news cycles for a long time:

Fred Goldberg, Jonathan Talisman, Mark Weinberger, Pamela Olson and Eric Solomon discussed, among other issues, the difficulties in crafting a revenue-neutral tax reform plan; problems with the alternative minimum tax and the tax exclusion for employer-provided healthcare; and issues with double taxation in the corporate code.

The former Treasury officials also declared that any successful overhaul of the tax code could take several years and would require leadership from the Oval Office.

Now for the older crowd, the long arduous process of tax reform harkens you back to days of when Charlie Sheen was winning by dodging…er, Charlie in Platoon. For many of the Millennials, well, you were all a lot cuter back then.

“We saw that in 1986,” Weinberger said. “President Reagan at the time made it his No. 1 domestic policy initiative and it still took over two years and failed three times before it was ultimately enacted into law.”

Baucus wants weekly tax reform hearings [On the Money/The Hill]

More Appeasement in Obama’s Proposed Budget

President Obama presented his nearly $4 trillion budget, proposing to cut more than $1 trillion from Federal programs over the next ten years, with $200 billion in cuts to occur over the next two years. Although these cuts may appear, at first glance, significant to the average American, in light of the recently enacted tax cuts of $858 billion over the next two years, that $200 billion of proposed spending cuts leaves $658 billion of thoted for.

In balancing our national budget, Obama and Congress are focusing on the wrong side of the financial equation. The projected deficit in 2011 is $1.65 trillion; however, the whole non-defense discretionary spending budget in 2010 was $477 billion. Even if all non-defense discretionary spending were eliminated, there would still remain a deficit of over $1.1 trillion. The math is clear that Congress cannot eliminate deficit spending by budget cuts. Taxes will need to be raised.


Some of the cuts that President Obama is proposing in his budget include $300 million for community block grants, $2.35 billion for low income home energy assistance program, and $400 billion from a five-year domestic spending freeze, as well as reductions in pell grants, graduate school loans, community access, etc. But all of these cuts do not come close to offsetting the lost revenues from the extension of the tax cuts to the rich.

A pattern has emerged in Obama’s dealings with the Republicans. Obama agreed with the Republican argument to give tax cuts to the rich to help the economy. Now he is proposing to cut programs for the middle class and the poor to balance the budget. In doing such, Obama is moving the political fulcrum to the right. His approach of pre-emptively offering something—whether it be tax cuts for the rich or budget cuts affecting the poor and middle class—instead of negotiating a quid pro quo, is effectively pushing the Republicans further to the right, seeing the prospect of gaining even more ground.

Although compromise is demanded in politics, leadership cannot be defined by compromise alone. There are principles worth fighting for; and leaders must be willing to mobilize public opinion in support of those principles. Since our political system is rigged because of campaign finance and lobbying, a leader professing change and reform needs to present a different narrative to the populace. Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt recognized the value of the bully pulpit. Despite his rhetorical skills, Obama has failed to do so. His posture of appeasement will in all likelihood allow the Republicans to balance the budget on the backs of the working class and low income Americans to the benefit of Wall Streeters and Multinational Corporations, who offshore jobs, brought about the financial crisis, and robbed trillions from the American people. Since Obama is seeking re-election in 2012, and is charting his own course, he will not lead the American people to the Promised Land.

America needs major tax reform. The extension of tax cuts to people who need them the least was the last thing Congress needed to do. Some Democrats want to cut $40 billion in subsidies to the oil companies for five years; however, Republicans refuse to cut these subsidies to the oil companies, preferring to cut programs for the poor and middle class. Moreover, in spite of two wars costing $120 billion per year and an inflation adjusted military budget larger than those in the Bush years and the Cold War, neither party desires to cut military spending, which constitutes 58% of the discretionary spending budget.

Reform will never come from Congress nor a President like Obama. It will require people outside of Washington working with allies inside Congress in order to stop this disconnect between what is transpiring in Washington and what this country needs. It will require people coming together as they did in Egypt in a pro-democracy movement. The question is, can and will the people of America come together before it is too late.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty Has the Perfect Catalyst for Tax Reform

And Doug Shulman will not like it. Or Charlie Rangel. OR Tim Geithner.

The rumored Presidential hopeful simply would like to see the members of Congress pick up a copy of TurboTax from their local OfficeMax™, grab their W-2s and 1099s and crank out their own 1040.

“No help of an accountant, a lawyer or a tax specialist,” he said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“And if they can’t do it, we give them a certification they can go get some help. But I’d like every one of those individuals to have to do their own taxes every year and live with the mindless burdens we put on the American people.”

And before you get all “what’s good for the goose” on TP, he’s got a tax-form anecdote for you:

Pawlenty lamented that he recently filled out a W-9 that had four pages of instructions for a half-page form.

Now, hold it right there. Filling out a W-9 doesn’t exactly qualify as “preparing a tax return.” If you want to dive into the nitty gritty of any of these forms, then we’ll listen to your beef but don’t waste our time with “four pages of instructions for a half-page form.” That’s child’s play.

Pawlenty: No tax help for Congress [Politico via MinnPost]

Tax Experts Weigh in on the Fiscal Commission Report

Plenty is being said about Bowles and Simpson’s Fiscal Commission report but we prefer to go with experts on the matter. Some musings from around the tax blogosphere

Joe Kristan loves the zero option, harkening back to the Reagan days:

If no “tax expenditures” were added back, the plan would reduce individual rates to 8, 14 and 23%, with a flat 26% corporate rate. There would be no reduced rate for capital gains, greatly simplifying tax lives for most of us.

This is an excellent idea. I would only apply more of the savings to reducing rates and add a dividends paid deduction to integrate the individual and corporate systems — a huge simplification. Nancy Pelosi isn’t crazfriends didn’t like the first zero option either.

From the aforementioned Tax Policy Center:

[T]his proposal is so provocative it almost seems as if Bowles and Simpson realize they have no chance of building consensus on their own commission. As a result, they may have decided to take their best shot now rather than watch their plan get nibbled to death. If so, it may not have been a bad idea. The fiscal panel may fade away in shame, but I have a feeling this plan may live on.

Tax Foundation’s Tax Policy Blog notes there’s plenty of displeasure to go around:

On the spending side, hawks will wince at the defense cuts while defenders of entitlement spending will dislike the higher retirement age and lower cost-of-living adjustments. One line item calls for all earmarks to be eliminated. Federal employee unions will not like the idea of a 3-year federal pay freeze and a reduction in non-defense employment by 10 percent through attrition.

On the tax side, there are certainly tax hikes for tax-haters to hate: gas taxes, dividend and capital gains taxes, and payroll taxes on high earners. Also, the revenue cap that the chairmen suggest, 21% of GDP, is higher than revenue has been in two generations.

Robert Flach is pleasantly surprised by the report but warns:

By just saying “add back in any desired tax expenditures, and pay for them by increasing one or all of the rates from their zero expenditure low” without limitations or restrictions we all know that the supporters of every single existing “tax expenditure”, as well as proposed new ones, will fund a lobby to throw money at Congress to keep or add their particular benefit. And individual Congresscritters will negotiate back and forth – “I’ll support your tax break if you support mine”. Before you know it we will end up with the same mucking fess we have now!

Meanwhile Dan Meyers needs oxygen:

[T]he report was nothing if not breathtakingly audacious by Washington standards.

Kay Bell notes the contention that has already begun over Social Security:

The debate over what typically is an inviolable government benefits program (remember Dubya’s failed attempt to privatize Social Security?) is going to rage for a bit…Perhaps most of the other members are as upset with the Social Security and tax suggestions as a lot of other people are right now. When the points of view of those 16 other commission members are taken into account, some of the recommendations might change … or disappear.

As Joe mentioned above, Nancy Pelosi hates the report, quoted by The Hill as, “simply unacceptable,” plus we gave you Dick Durbin’s thoughts yesterday.

Personally, we’re fans of the report because if nothing else, it forces politicians to entertain real solutions rather than hide behind the bullshit rhetoric we hear about “tax reform” and “cut spending.” And finally, as Gerald Seib writes at the Journal, there aren’t any more excuses:

By making their ideas public, they made it harder for other commission members to run and hide. The commission now can’t simply bury controversial or unpopular ideas. It has to say to the world that it has rejected them and take responsibility for having done so.

It’s about time.

Dick Durbin Isn’t Buying This Fiscal Commission Report

“I told them that there are things in there that inspire me, and there are things in there that I hate like the devil hates holy water. I’m not going to vote for this thing.”

~ The Illinois Senator doesn’t like the sales pitch from Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson.

Tax Reform Suggestions Will More or Less Encompass Every Idea, Ever

Despite other pressing issues out there, such as, whether a Muslim community center is too closeto Ground Zero or if it’s just a religious revival of an old Burlington Coat factory, the matter of tax reform managed to creep back into the news late last week.

The President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board plans on dropping some suggestions on fixing our tax system on August 27th. This comes after the getting suggestions from the American people but then stalling a little bit on the issue.

Now that some recommendations are scheduled to be made public the Journal suggests that the timing isn’t ideal for an election year but also mentions that while there’s going to be plenty of idea put out there, no real solutions are going to be recommended:

But the timing of the release just before the Labor Day weekend suggests that the administration might be trying to downplay it. Many Democrats say tax hikes are inevitable if the government is to bring down the federal deficit, expected to total about $1.5 trillion this year, but that option remains politically sensitive, given the high jobless rate and ahead of November’s mid-term elections.

According to the Treasury Department, the report will offer “an almanac of options from a broad range of viewpoints,” but won’t make specific policy recommendations. It will discuss ideas related to simplifying the tax code, strengthening enforcement and overhauling the corporate tax system, the department said.

An ‘almanac of ideas’ will no doubt incorporate all ideas on tax reform floated by anyone, anywhere so that it can appear that people are trying really hard to come up with a solution without making anything too politically awkward. In other words, business as usual.

White House Panel to Issue Tax-Overhaul Report Aug. 27 [WSJ]

Memo to Washington: Please Consider Tax Reform

“Instead of reprising their partisan, tiresome, and largely unproductive argument about what to do with the Bush tax cuts, President Obama and Congress ought to be asking a very different question: How do we build a tax system capable of generating the revenues we need to fund the government we want in the most efficient and fair way possible?”

~ Howard Gleckman

IRS Commish Finds the Tax Code Complex, Doesn’t Do His Own Taxes

[caption id="attachment_23858" align="alignright" width="260" caption="Dude. Code is this thick."][/caption]Just because you’re in charge of the IRS doesn’t mean you know anything everything. Doug Shulman was on C-SPAN over the weekend (we’re sure you saw it) and admitted that he uses a tax preparer.

His rationale is, “Look, I’m a busy dude, I don’t have time to do my own taxes. Besides, have you seen the size of the tax code? It’s a flippin’ mind job.”

Or in his own words:

“I’ve used one for years. I find it convenient. I find the tax code complex so I use a preparer,” Shulman said.
Pressed on how he would make the tax code simpler, Shulman responded, “I don’t write the tax laws. Congress writes the tax laws so that’s a whole different discussion.”

Unapologetic as usual, Dougie. We’ll give him credit though – admitting that the tax code that you’re in charge of enforcing is too complex is admirable (although not a news flash).

Plus, he goes so far to say that he’s powerless to do anything about it. Now that’s transparent government!

IRS commissioner doesn’t file his own taxes [The Hill]

The American People Have Spoken on Tax Reform

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Tax Code.jpgAfter asking pretty much everyone for their suggestions on tax reform, the President’s Tax Reform Panel has released 384 submitted suggestions and the American People did not disappoint.

The FairTax.org crowd turned out en masse and plenty of practitioners and academics also provided their $0.02.
We didn’t really read those but we’re sure they’re great. We were more interested in those people that were more or less thinking out loud.

Suggestion #239 Mike Finch:

I support yearly audits of all government big wigs and prison terms for any that are found to have made more than $100 mistake on their taxes.

Suggestion #249 from “Froggy” whose organization is “peace man”:

Tax the rich! tax the rich! tax the rich!. oh please please please tax the rich. I want the economy to sink further!


Suggestion #278 from Alex Clay:

Make it explicit that cheating on your taxes makes you ineligible for presidentially appointed positions or committee chairmanships in the congress

Suggestion #346 from Ed:

0% tax rate. Reduce the tax law to 2 pages.

David Laing’s suggestion (#359) must have gotten lost on its way to the health care debate:

No option is NO OPTION! No bill that does not contain a public option is not worth your signature.

Since most of you have checked out for the week, consider spending some digging through these for more gems (we haven’t been able to find an intern that’s up to the job) or suggest your own ideas in the comments.

Tax Reform Submitted Comments [TWH]

SHOCKER: Tax Reform Will Have to Wait

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Tax Code.jpgIf you’re like us, you’ve been anticipating the report on tax reform from the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board like teenage girls jonesing for New Moon.
Unfortunately, the report has been delayed and the Board will only be issuing “an almanac” of ideas at this point. The original deadline was for this Friday but you know how that goes.


Apparently you heeded the call put forth by the White House because they’re still reviewing all your brilliant ideas:
Tax Vox (our emphasis):

The White House statement says the board has not yet had time to review the hundreds of ideas it has received from the public. At the time same time, it asked for more suggestions. Yet, it is hard to believe that the panel is going to hear much new. After all, the ground of simplification and enforcement has been pretty well-plowed for years.

So keep those ideas coming people. Anything goes. Abolishment? Sure, they’ll think about it. Taxing the stupid? Best idea we’ve heard so far. If you’ve got suggestions, drop them here first then ring up the WH. They’re waiting.
White House Tax Reform Report Delayed Until Next Year [Tax Vox]
Also see:
President’s Tax Reform Task Force to Miss Dec. 4 Deadline to Issue Report [TaxProf Blog]
Tax Reform Panel: Something Someday [Tax Update Blog]