USA Today: Let the taxman die
By Representatives Bob Goodlatte and Kevin Brady
Tax Day — a day that more Americans hate than any other — has come and gone. The recent scandals and bureaucratic bungling by the Internal Revenue Service have so angered the public that cries to "Abolish the IRS" trigger enthusiastic applause at political rallies and have become popular bumper stickers all over the country.
Americans rightly gripe about taxes and lawmakers from left to right tout their commitment to tax reform, and occasionally efforts to reform certain aspects of the code do take shape. While they are often just nibbling at the edges of the larger problem, thankfully progress has begun. Following three hard years of work by the House Ways & Means Committee, its former chairman, Dave Camp, successfully produced the first full tax reform draft in three decades. The panel's new chairman, Paul Ryan, is making pro-growth tax reform his signature issue.
But the truth is it will probably take something dramatic to finally get the president and Congress to act: eliminating the current tax code.
With a skeptical electorate tired of gridlock, we think this has actually made 2015 an ideal time to establish a timetable that culminates in meaningful, lasting tax reform that truly helps hardworking taxpayers and creates a healthier economy. That's why we are working hard to see the Tax Code Termination Act (H.R. 27) approved by the Congress and signed into law.
Sunsetting — legislatively terminating — the tax code is a sure fire way to spur the reform the tax code needs. Across the political spectrum, there is almost universal agreement we can do far better by the American people than the current tax code.
Our current code is just too big, too complex, and fraught with loopholes and abuse. It's inherently unfair and inefficient.
In 1914, the U.S. tax code was about the same length as American Sniper or Gone Girl. Now it's grown to almost 74,000 pages — the length of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, if you read it nearly 70 times!
And yes we've heard the horror stories; in fact, many of us know people who have lived these horror stories. In the last two years more than 360,000 taxpayers were the victims of a scam involving fake IRS agents who threatened consumers and conned their victims out of over $15 million.
In February, the tax service provider H&R Block reported that more than 50% of Obamacare customers received subsidies that were too large, and as a result they will have their tax refunds reduced or need to send in additional money with their returns. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the confusion and harm caused by our tax code's complexity.
The best way to reform is to first do away with what we have now. Under our plan the current tax code would expire on December 31, 2019. Between now and then there would be a presidential election and a mid-term congressional election. That provides plenty of time to debate and agree upon a new and reformed tax structure that would kick in with the New Year on January 1, 2020.
This approach will allow us, as a nation, to collectively decide what the new tax system should look like. There are many competing alternatives but having a set date to end the current tax code will drive the issue and the debate to the top of the national agenda.
This would give everyone an equal opportunity to make their case and contribute to the debate. Whatever tax plan you may support, we'd all be at the starting line together.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia., is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Let Freedom Ring, has independently begun a grassroots communications effort with the website SunsetTheTaxCode.com.