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Posted at 08:57 AM ET, 11/16/2011

On tax reform, Congress says one thing but does another


(Daniel Acker - BLOOMBERG)

Simplify, simplify.

That’s the message from pretty much any member of Congress when it comes to reforming the country’s labyrinthine tax code.

When it comes to actually enacting tax legislation, however, lawmakers just can’t help making things more complicated.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) introduced the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions (NAT GAS) Act of 2011, a measure that would extend tax credits to encourage the production and purchase of vehicles that run on natural gas.

The introduction of the measure comes one week after the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that would give businesses a tax credit for hiring unemployed and disabled veterans.

Taken together, the measures are the latest illustration of just how difficult a task is facing the bipartisan debt “supercommittee,” which has until Nov. 23 to draft a far-reaching debt-reduction plan. Members of the panel have been working toward a plan that includes a comprehensive reform of the federal tax code, but as The Post’s Roz Helderman has noted, doing away with existing tax credits is no easy task.

The Senate measure introduced on Tuesday is the upper chamber’s counterpart to H.R. 1380, which has garnered broad bipartisan support since it was introduced in the House earlier this year. Proponents of the bill argue that it would encourage the development of alternative forms of energy and decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

A handful of conservatives have announced their opposition to the House version of the bill, and the group Americans for Tax Reform, headed by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, has also criticized the NAT GAS measure as an effort by the federal government to “pick winners and losers” through the tax code.

Of course, that’s something that will continue to take place even if the supercommittee succeeds in its effort at comprehensive tax reform. But the recent tax-credit proposals put forth by members of both parties – even as the panel’s deadline looms just eight days away – only serve to underscore the tough task the joint committee faces.

By  |  08:57 AM ET, 11/16/2011

 
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