Another Write-wing Conspirator

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    Welcome to my curmudgeondom. As you’ll soon learn, your reactions to my missives here are likely to range from fear to loathing to tears to outright rage—and I just might even evoke from you an occasional sober nod or two.

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    Armchair philosopher, politically-incorrect political commentator, raconteur, retired air traffic controller, dilettante truck driver, US Army veteran, recluse, sometime-writer, redneck convert neè Buckeye, ne'er-do-well, bon vivant, unrepentant libertine, unapologetic libertarian, and (of course) curmudgeon…

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Yearning for Simplicity

Posted by The Curmudgeon on April 27, 2010

…starting with income taxes and voter registration

For those of us who undergo that annual transmogrification from rational human beings to raging, babbling idiots when presented with a tax return to complete, it came as some ironic comfort to learn that even IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman doesn’t tread in the shadow of the tax code. “I find the tax code complex,” said Shulman, “so I use a (tax return) preparer.”

It was, at least, a bit more entertaining than the revelation that (then) Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner had “carelessly” failed to pay some $34,000 in income taxes. (I’ll set aside for a separate rant the dubious logic of having an alleged tax cheat who’s that “careless” about both money and compliance with tax laws placed in charge of the U.S. Treasury.)

These are but two examples one could cite in calling for a “flat tax” to replace the monument to esoterica that is the United States Tax Code.

Actually offering-up such a suggestion, however, invites a familiar litany of responses including rolling of the eyes, exaggerated sighs, dismissive waves of the hand, and condescending insistences that “It won’t work” (with the addition of “you imbecile” unspoken—but generally understood).

What it doesn’t seem to ever evoke is an explanation. Though quick to dismiss the notion, none of these supposed experts ever gets around to telling us why it wouldn’t work—which leads many of us to suspect that it actually could.

There might have to be some adjustments, of course. Claims that such a tax scheme would unfairly burden the poor seem unfounded, but might warrant excluding income below a designated minimum threshold. And there may have to be some allowance for extraordinary circumstances — such as a catastrophic illness or devastating loss from natural disaster, for example — but, that’s it. Just have everyone pay the same percentage of their income and be done with it. (Opinions vary, but 15% seems to be the most commonly suggested—though some speculate as low as 8%. Whether to keep the personal exemption is another question, and there are those who also advocate allowing exemptions for dependents.)

Though there’s again no shortage of really smart people who claim that it wouldn’t work, there are also a lot of really smart people who insist that it would. Given how well the present system has worked out (hold your laughter, please), it might be time to consider it.

While we’re at it, let’s take a look at voter registration; in fact, it could be made to dovetail nicely with a tax code revision.

Consider the following:

First, require that a tax return be filed by everyone eighteen years of age or older (whether they had any income or not) and by everyone — regardless of age — who has income of any sort. If the new scheme is to continue allowing exemptions, then everyone would get to claim one exemption for themselves — just as under the current scheme — and one exemption may also be taken for each dependent child. Require also that both names and Social Security numbers for filers and dependents alike (yes; even infants) be affixed to each return. (Those under eighteen who are claimed as dependents would see their tax withholdings refunded. It’s only fair; many are high school kids with part-time jobs, anyway—and it’s simply wrong to demand taxes from those who are not yet old enough to vote.) There may also be room in this proposal for allowing the dependent exemption to continue until a later age (twenty-two, perhaps?) for full-time students. All other income withholding continues in its current format (e.g., Social Security, disability, etc), and tax is assessed only on net income.

Since Social Security numbers are required for tax returns, there’d be greater accountability both for tax revenue and to ensure that those who file returns are eligible for employment in the U.S—an added bonus that just might help curtail illegal immigration. Funds withheld and deposited to Social Security accounts that are not accounted for by corresponding tax returns would trigger an alert to IRS—and to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

That’s it. No deductions. No exceptions.

Upon IRS receipt of the tax returns, filers who are also eligible to vote would automatically be registered to do so, and would be issued voter eligibility certificates that must be presented when voting. And since everyone would be required to file a tax return, other manners of voter registration — notorious for being rife with fraud — could be done away with altogether. Voter registration would expire after one year; it would then be automatically reinstated with the filing of the succeeding year’s tax return, and a new eligibility certificate issued—obviating the need to maintain voter rolls.

You pay taxes according to a code that doesn’t require a Rosetta Stone to decipher, you file a tax return, you vote; it’s just that simple. No more ACORN-like voter registration scandals, no more non-citizens voting, and those long-buried corpses that miraculously spring back to life every few years (just long enough to cast ballots) would finally be laid to rest—permanently.

Would all this work?

Only one way to find out for certain—but it’s unlikely to be any worse than the current system, in any event.

________

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3 Responses to “Yearning for Simplicity”

  1. Linda said

    I am so totally for in every way in agreement with almost everything you say. (btw–dependent children already have to have Social Security numbers–think it has been a requirement to stop granny from hiding money in the grandbaby’s name.) The only thing I disagree with is allowing kids to skip the taxes because of age. They pay sales tax. They can pay income tax.

    • I knew it became increasingly popular several years ago to obtain SSAN’s for kids; I didn’t realize it had actually been made a requirement (I got one when I was 13, if memory serves). My intent in making it mandatory relates to accountability.

      Point taken regarding sales tax. The reason I favor exempting kids from income tax stems from the fact that they have no say in who represents them (that taxation/representation thing)—and I doubt that kids flipping burgers or doing basically low-skill work after school and on weekends are going to make or break the federal budget. It’s probably a moot point, anyway, as they’d likely fall well below any minimum-income threshold.

  2. Obtaining Social Security numbers for children has been mandatory for around thirty years. The catch is that it only applies to those who pay income taxes and want a deduction for that child.

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