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Even Members of Congress Can't Figure Out Tax Code

Nan Swift
April 16, 2013

For taxpayers, NTU’s annual tax complexity report released yesterday wasn’t exactly full of surprises. Anyone who spent the last few days and weeks sorting through financial documents and trying to interpret the dead-language of the Internal Revenue Service in order to simply comply with 16th amendment can attest to the enormous burden imposed by this annual rite. In fact, tax compliance has become so onerous that 9 out of 10 returns filed are now done by paid preparers or tax software – a clear sign that more and more are simply throwing in the towel.

And it would seem that our legislators in Washington also feel the pain – yesterday, reported that “tax forms are too complex for members of Congress to fill out on their own.”

Coming from the very people with the power to overhaul the system, the tales of tax-preparation woe seem almost quaint:

In fact, when broached with the question, “Do you fill out your own tax forms?” most members burst out laughing before admitting it was just too complicated.

“I’m a former business lawyer,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said, adding that he’s served on tax-writing committees during his time in Congress. “I know a lot about tax policy as a result, but I would not dare to do my own taxes.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said: “I did taxes for other people for a long time. I could not possibly do taxes now for myself.”

It may be a sign of reforms to come when even lawmakers can’t figure out the laws, or it could be that people who don’t have to face down the mountain of forms and receipts in person might not realize the incredible cost mounting tax complexity is imposing both on individuals and our economy.

Either way, this is a good reminder that the current Tax Code is broken and needs to be scrapped. Luckily, the Ways and Means Committee is well underway on major reforms that will simplify things and hopefully help spur economic growth. But it will be an uphill battle and reformed-minded legislators need all the grassroots help they can get. Please take a minute to send a message to your legislators by clicking here and tell Washington we need to Scrap the Code!



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