Time to simplify the US tax code

I am a lawyer. As state auditor, I know more than a little about accounting and taxes. And with all that, I pay someone else to do my federal income tax return.

I’m not alone – 94 percent of Americans pay someone else to do their taxes. We spend more than 6 billion hours each year trying to figure out how to comply with 74,000 pages of densely written tax code.

By way of comparison, the hardest book I read this year was “The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire.” It was 513 pages. The U.S. Tax Code is 144 times longer.

It’s been 30 years since the tax code was simplified under Ronald Reagan. But just like mold, without constant effort, the tax code grows in the dark – multiplying year by year until it takes over. It’s time to tear it down and start over.

Aside from the sheer insane complexity of the tax code, it hurts the American economy. The tax code was written by people with calluses on their hearts, at the expense of people with calluses on their hands.

The tax code helps companies move offshore – in fact, we have the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. It ought to instead encourage American companies to do business in America, and to bring money earned overseas back home. That’s when we’ll see jobs and real wage growth.

You can be for free trade and still want a tax code that doesn’t tempt businesses to abandon Americans.

Tax reform would be good for the economy, and it will be good for Ohio families. The president’s plan will double the standard deduction so that more income is taxed at zero percent. It will increase and expand the Child Tax Credit to help more middle-class families and – finally! – eliminate the marriage penalty.

Can you find something to criticize? Sure. There are thousands of details, large and small, that go into tax reform. Personally, I am unhappy with several things in the initial plan – but that’s why we have hearings and a legislative process.

No tax code is going to make all of us happy. I’ll settle for a tax code that is simpler, fairer and encourages America to keep its jobs at home. Now is the time to get it done.

David Yost has been Ohio’s auditor since January 2011.

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