Ted Cruz unintentionally explains why we need the IRS

June 3, 2013
Sen. Ted Cruz wants to get rid of the IRS. He ended up explaining why it's needed. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) wants to get rid of the IRS. He ended up explaining why it's needed. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz knows how to deal with the Internal Revenue Service: Get rid of it!

We ought to abolish the IRS and instead move to a simple flat tax, where the average American can fill out our taxes on a postcard. Put down how much you earn. Put down a deduction for charitable contributions and home mortgage. And put down how much you owe.

That does sound simple! But what if some citizen somewhere declines to fill out the postcard? Well, I guess we need some bureaucrat that will send them a follow-up postcard making sure they got the first postcard. If they don't fill out that postcard, we need someone who will give them a call to make sure they're getting these postcards.

And Cruz's flat tax is actually a bit more complicated than most. It includes deductions for mortgages and charitable contributions. What if everyone says they gave a million dollars to charity and own a huge home? Who's going to check all that out? Well, some well-meaning flat-tax collection agents, I guess.

The people doing all this need to sit somewhere. The place they sit doesn't need to be called "The Internal Revenue Service." It can be called "The Agency of Tax Freedom." But it is, in effect, the Internal Revenue Service.

Which is all to say that Cruz doesn't really want to abolish the IRS. He wants to reform the tax code -- and, given the sparse details he offered, his reforms will be hugely regressive. But even his tax code will need someone, somewhere, to enforce it.

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