When asked about filing his income taxes in 1944, Albert Einstein reportedly said, “This is a question too difficult for a mathematician. It should be asked of a philosopher.”
And it certainly hasn’t gotten easier. At roughly 4 million words long, the U.S. tax code is chock full of confusion. For the average American, Tax Day brings an annual headache.
We fork over a good portion of our paycheck, knowing Washington will likely waste it on pet projects and generous taxpayer giveaways — $100 billion per year — to the politically well-connected who employed an army of lobbyists to win those tax breaks in the first place.
Then a lot of us pay a healthy sum to tax preparers to make sure we don’t run afoul of the dreaded IRS.
But our tax code is so convoluted even the professionals have trouble navigating it.
In 2014, government investigators sent the same information to 19 different tax preparers and asked them to prepare a return. Only two calculated the right refund amount. A national taxpayer advocate at the IRS said our system has “devolved into the Wild Wild West of tax return preparation” and urged greater regulation of tax preparers.
That’s Washington logic. My Hoosier logic draws a different conclusion: The tax code is far too complicated and must be simplified.
Even worse, it takes too much of what we worked so hard to earn.
Last year, as tens of thousands of Hoosiers struggled to make ends meet, federal taxes gobbled up nearly 17 percent of Indiana’s GDP.
I have no doubt we would spend that money far more responsibly ourselves than Washington does. Many would spend it on everyday needs or put it toward savings to buy a home or pursue a college education.
And our local businesses would grow and create jobs, which would bring greater financial security to our communities.
For years, lawmakers have been talking about genuine tax reform. But now, for the first time in a generation, they have an opportunity to achieve it.
They can start by simplifying the system, making it flatter with fewer brackets and lower rates to lessen our tax burden and make it easier for taxpayers to file our own taxes. Then Washington also must reduce deductions and eliminate the lobby-secured loopholes that benefit the power players.
Americans deserve a system where everyone pays his fair share, and we all know what that means — no special treatment, no back-scratching giveaways.
Proving that some in Washington are serious about genuinely reforming our tax code, both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are coming to Indiana to urge our federal lawmakers to get on board.
History shows that reforms like those the administration and others are discussing have added millions of jobs and boosted take-home pay for the average taxpayer by $2,000. We all could use that.
Hopefully, Sen. Joe Donnelly will join the effort. In the past, he has acknowledged that the tax code is “antiquated” and agreed “undoubtedly, comprehensive tax reform is needed.”
And he has urged “both parties to work together ... to close tax loopholes.”
Now, when it counts, we need him to turn his bipartisan words into action. Hardworking Indiana taxpayers are depending on him to do so.
We need all of our representatives in Washington to finally tackle tax reform.
It shouldn’t require a tax professional, a mathematician, a philosopher, an Einstein or a headache to complete our taxes — just a pen and a calculator.