Am I more important than you? Yesterday’s post, where I left enough clues to enable people to determine which (losing) candidate I supported at the Iowa Caucuses, provoked this comment:
You voted for Rand Paul? Rand Paul who wants to pass a flat tax and put all the tax professionals out of business?
It’s a statement that verifies the darkest suspicions one might have of the tax profession. Unless, of course, the commenter, who has “CPA” on his post name, is being sarcastic.
There is certainly a case to be made that an income tax like the one we have is the best way to raise revenue. You could make an honest case also that it is wise to use the tax law to achieve non-tax social goals. While I would disagree, such arguments have a long tradition and reasonable intellectual underpinnings. There’s an argument that in a complex economy, we should expect a complex tax system, and the need to hire tax professionals is a collateral cost to achieve a greater benefit.
But that’s not what the commenter is saying. He is saying that ensuring the ability of tax professionals to make a living off the tax system should be a policy goal. If he means more, he leaves it out; that’s the entire comment.
Sometimes taking an argument to its logical conclusion helps shed light on a system. What if we could magically create a tax system that would grow the economy by a million extra well-paying jobs a year, but was so easy to administer and comply with that it would eliminate the jobs of all 674,686 IRS- registered tax professionals? Oh, and it would cure cancer, too. An objective observer would choose the magical system, and would rightly regard any tax preparer who fought against it to preserve his own job as a monster.
The interest of tax preparers, while obviously important to me, can never be the primary concern of tax policy. Otherwise you would argue for ever-more complex taxes and ever-higher rates to make it harder to do without us. Considering the embarrassment of riches our current tax system offers to those of us who feast on complexity, arguing for more is both unconscionable and redundant.
That gets me back to Mr. Paul, who, according to my Twitter feed, will leave the race today. His tax proposal is a version of a consumption tax that, according to the Tax Foundation’s dynamic projections, would both reduce the budget deficit and grow the economy. It is the only plan that would do both. In contrast, the Bernie Sanders plan would do awful things to the economy, but it would sure make tax preparers more valuable. While people I respect support Sanders for reasons I find incomprehensible, none of them do so to make a living off of forced extractions from others.
Everybody who does tax for a living does so knowing that a stroke of the pen could put us out of business. My dentist taunted me with this observation before I even started my first tax job. I have always set my lifestyle and expectations accordingly. While I’ve made a living off the tax law, the world certainly doesn’t owe it to me, or to anyone else.
Kyle Pomerleau, Scott Greenberg, How Danish is Bernie Sanders’s Tax Plan? (Tax Policy Blog):
But it would be great for tax pros!
TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1,000. Thanks to Paul Caron for his persistence in paying attention to the past and continuing IRS abuse of power.
William Perez, 8 Reasons to Ask the IRS for a Tax Extension. Always better to extend than amend.
TaxGrrrl, Congressman’s Son Sentenced To Five Years In Prison On Fraud & Tax Charges. Maybe he’ll meet a Powerball winner.
David Brunori, Paying for Past Sins (Tax Analysts Blog) “The Jindal administration pushed tax cuts without paying for them. It then tried to address the ensuing budget problems with a barrage of gimmicks. For that, the citizens of Louisiana are likely to pay a price.”
Jeremy Scott, Ted Cruz’s Iowa Win Not a Victory for a VAT (Tax Analysts Blog). “Cruz may have a radical tax program, but it hasn’t been a big piece of his campaign.”
Renu Zaretsky, What’s so funny about taxes, love, and solidarity? “Would Americans pay higher taxes with as much love and solidarity for the people of Flint as they donate water? And would my fellow Michigan neighbors pay up, given that state government appointees and representatives caused the problem and then covered it up?” Not to mention the local one-party regime that triggered the crisis in the first place.
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Kay Bell, North Pole decides to tax marijuana. Maybe that’s why Santa is so jolly.