Vern Buchanan: Time to change the tax code



The U.S. tax code is complicated, unfair and punitive. And that’s putting it mildly.

Consider these numbers:

• 74,000 — the number of pages in the tax code — five times as long as the Bible’s Old and New Testaments combined.

• 6.1 billion — the number of hours Americans spend trying to comply with the tax code.

• $168 billion — the annual cost of compliance to individuals and businesses.

The tax code punishes everyone from families trying to make ends meet to employers trying to compete in the global marketplace. Instead of promoting economic growth and enhancing our international competitiveness, it does just the opposite.

That’s why it is well past time for Congress and the president to put aside the posturing and get serious about passing a major tax reform package.

The guiding principle of this effort must be tax simplification. Nearly 90 percent of taxpayers either hire a professional or buy commercial software to spare them the agony of figuring out what they owe the government. That’s not surprising when you consider that in the last decade there have been more than 4,000 changes to the tax code — more than one a day. Imagine if all this time, money, and energy were put into job creation and getting Americans back to work.

Even the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the agency charged with enforcing the tax code, is failing to keep up with the code’s complexity. According to a report by the National Taxpayer Advocate, the IRS accumulated a backlog of more than 1 million pieces of taxpayer correspondence in 2012 alone.

As Florida’s only member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, I understand that any meaningful tax reform cannot be accomplished behind closed doors. Over the last two years, our committee has held 30 public hearings and roundtables with those who administer the tax code and all groups that are affected by it. From these discussions, the common refrain is that America needs a simpler, fairer, pro-growth tax code to help revitalize a sluggish economy.

That means lowering corporate tax rates — currently the highest in the world — to encourage businesses to grow jobs at home and not watch them disappear overseas.

That means not taxing small business on Main Street at a higher rate than big business on Wall Street.

And that means reducing individual rates for all Americans to be paid for by stripping oil companies and other special interests of tax subsidies.

In walking Main Street and visiting with countless families and small business owners, I’ve witnessed firsthand the devastation a broken tax code can inflict. In the coming months, the Congress has not only an opportunity but a responsibility to help ease this burden. It’s going to take both parties working together to get the job done for the American people.

The New York Times editorialized that “tax reform, done right, could be a cure for much of what ails the economy.”

The time for talk is over. The time to act is now.

Republican Vern Buchanan represents Florida’s 16th District in Congress. He is a member of the House Ways & Means Committee.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald



    Michelle Obama: We can end veteran homelessness

    At the beginning of June, 85 mayors, governors and county officials from across the country — and across the political spectrum — signed on to the Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness. Today, we’re announcing that in the two months since then, 87 more state and local leaders have pledged that they will end homelessness among veterans in their communities by the end of 2015.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">POVERTY:</span> GOP Rep. Paul Ryan has offered a new plan for using federal anti-poverty funds.

    In My Opinion

    Leonard Pitts: Give Paul Ryan credit for his ideas on poverty

    Cover your eyes and hide the kids: A Republican is talking poverty.



    Medicaid expansion should be a no-brainer

    The Florida Medical Association, the politically powerful lobbying organization that represents the state’s doctors, recently approved a resolution endorsing Medicaid expansion for Florida’s low-income uninsured.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category