Ask a congressman why tax reform legislation is so difficult to pass and you're likely to get an explanation that runs something like this:
"People aren't ready for real tax reform yet. The present laws include special benefits for just about everybody, and nobody is willing to give his own goodies for the sake of simplification for everbody. When a constituent demands tax reform, chances are he means, 'knock out every special benefit except the ones that help me.' And we just can't do that."
There may be a measure of truth to this explanation, but mail reaching my desk this week indicates that most taxpayers are far more sophisticated than their congressmen think. Eleven District Liners have written to me on the subject, and all 11 are clearly aware that the only way to get simplification and lower tax schedules is to give up the numberless boondoggles, exceptions, allowances, deductions and exemptions in the present law. The average taxpayer is not the dumbbell some politcians think he is.
Avery Comarrow, wo did the "Tax Filing Tips" article that is featured on the cover of the March issue of Money magazine (it's well worth reading), sees the problem as two-fold: first, the complicated tax laws themselves, and second, the "incredibly unreadable language of the tax instructions."
Noting that the Joint Committee on Taxation recently found it necessary to issue a 682-page report explaining what Congress meant by the Tax Reform Act of 1976, Comarow suggests tha one of the best things the government could do would be to hire some professional journalists to write the laws and instructions. Even the present tax laws might be tolerable if they were put into simple English sentences that an average person could comprehend.
I agree. I think some of the worst writing in America is done by legislatures.
Capt. Brenda D. Smith, USA, suggests: "No income taxes for those making less than $10,000. Thereafter, no personal deductions, no advantages for being married or unmarried, no complicated figuring.Just a flat percentage rate of 10 per cent of 15 per cent or whatever it takes to run the government."
Instructions too long and too complicated to comprehend drew much fire. R.M. Clendenin suggested that IRS be required by law to explain all its rules and instructions on one sheet of letter sized paper. P.E. Arbo wants all congressmen and tax committee staff members to be required to fill out their own income tax returns without professional help. But M. Wilson of Oxon Hill goes a step further with this suggestions:
"To simplify the tax forms, all we would have to do is make it a law that all congressmen report to the Capital Centre with all their supporting data, a pocket calculator and a supply of pencils and pens. They would be permitted to bring in food supplies for up to two weeks, but would not be permitted to leave until they filed their completed tax returns at the door.Aspirin and tranquilizers would be supplied free at taxpayer expense - but I'll bet we'd get some quick reforms."
Indeed, indeed. It would dawn on the ladies and gentlemen of the Congress in very short order that any time they pass a law that needs 682 pages of explanation to tell a citizen what his government requires of him, the law is absurd. The quicker we get rid of it, the better off we'll all be. And the best time to start is yesterday.