Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Radical Tax Reforms Gain New Attention

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Radical Tax Reforms Gain New Attention

Article excerpt

JUST days before the April 17 income tax due date, the H & R Block office next to a Baltimore Burger King is filled with customers. It's 8 p.m., and the computers are humming for filers who flock to this convenience store of accounting firms, in a scene repeated across the country.

All told, some 115 million individuals and 6 million corporations will file to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by April 17. They will spend nearly $200 billion this year for services to guide them through the labyrinth of state and federal tax codes.

Many of these harried filers, faced with the complexity of their 1040 forms, undoubtedly wish for a simpler United States tax system. There's a chance their desire may soon be met: In recent months, many legislators on Capitol Hill have begun to call for a radical overhaul of the revenue code.

Proposed changes would go far beyond the tax cuts pushed by the GOP as part of their Contract With America. Some lawmakers are pushing a "flat tax," under which taxpayers would all pay the same, reduced rate. Others would eliminate the IRS altogether, via imposition of a national sales tax in place of the familiar income tax system.

The seriousness of these efforts can be seen in how much support they are getting among candidates for the GOP presidential nomination. Sen. Bob Dole (R) of Kansas, in announcing his candidacy this week, said "we need a president committed to making our tax system lower, fairer, flatter, simpler."

Republican presidential hopefuls Sens. Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania and Richard Lugar of Indiana have declared war on the IRS and promised new ways to generate government revenue.

Ruling on regulations

Even before next year's November election, a National Commission on Economic Growth will sort through new tax proposals. Last week, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) of Georgia and Senate majority leader Dole, who set up the commission, empowered it to examine the 9,000-page federal tax code, replete with "thousands of regulations, rules, and red tape."

Before the commission issues its findings in September, former Cabinet member Jack Kemp and company will have plenty of new plans to review. Some of their proponents are floating trial balloons to test public opinion.

The first in the air comes from House Ways and Means chairman Bill Archer (R) of Texas, who has been trying to galvanize support for a broad-based consumption tax. He would like nothing better than to put the IRS out of business by supplanting the income tax with a national sales tax -- a value-added tax -- on purchases of goods and services. There are several variations on the theme.

Then there is the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, but at a lower level" crowd: the so-called Flat Taxers, who want all Americans taxed at the same reduced rate -- somewhere between 17 and 20 percent. …

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