Every time someone tells me that a simple flat income tax would be the fairest way to go, I sigh deeply and consider: is this a discussion I need to have? If it’s a stranger sharing his opinion, the answer is no. If it is someone I care about, I explain why progressive taxes are fairer than regressive taxes. Which is what a flat tax is.
But then April 15 rolls around.
My accountant sends me an electronic workbook every January in which I enter all my income and expenses. It is a task I despise. Every year I pledge to get organized and get it done early. I am not a wealthy person, but I have modest rental income, some small investments, W-2 earnings, children in college, and a spouse on social security. Turbo Tax is not sophisticated enough to generate my tax return. I have no choice but to use an accountant. That is, if I want to stay sane.
In Little Dorrit, Dickens invented the Office of Circumlocution. It’s all too real. Here’s an example of just ONE calculation from my tax return:
If line 7 is greater than or equal to line 6, skip lines 8 and 9, enter -0- on line 10. Otherwise, go to line 8.
8 Subtract line 7 from line 6
9 Multiply line 8 by 50% (.5). Do not enter more than $25,000. If married filing separately, see instructions.
10 Enter the smaller of line 5 or line 9. If line 2c is a loss, go to Part III. Otherwise go to line 15.
“See instructions” is liberally sprinkled throughout the return. I can’t imagine squinting at the 6 point type in the IRS booklet to read those instructions even once without losing my mind.
So every April 15, my latent Republican tendencies emerge and I grumble about my taxes. But then on April 16th, reason prevails and I realize that it is precisely because of the Republicans that our tax returns are so complicated. The 1% can afford armies of accountants. GE has a tax department of over 500 people whose raison d’etre is tax avoidance. Who says the government doesn’t create jobs?