It took me about half a day. With time off for lunch. Why Congress hasn't been able to do this in 26 years is another matter.
Today, of course, is Tax Day. Last week I unloaded with my ten top tax hates. I started wondering how difficult it would be to create something better that raised the same amount of money. Turns out, it's not hard at all. All those protests from Washington -- "it's tougher than you think" -- are a bunch of hooey.
As everybody knows, our current tax code is appalling. It manages to be offensive to every sound principal, liberal and conservative."
The key is to not allow it to be watered down with legislation and amendments paid for by corporate lobbyists.
Once a tax-code is set, it should not be touched for at least 10 years.
There are arguably good reasons for tax breaks/amendments etc.
What I think should be done is somewhat like the presidental election cycle; tax breaks/reliefs can be voted in for terms, say 2,4 and 6 years depending on the situation, but each category of tax breaks is only allowed a set number (i.e. 20 for 2, 4 years, 5 for 6 years) and can be extended/voted in only twice.
These tax breaks should not be able to be re-written to create a perpetual cycle of endless tax breaks, or maybe a 'cool-off' period of at leas 2x the tax break period (i.e. if the tax-break was 4 years total, Congress must wait 8 years before implementing a new version of the break). Also simultaneous synonymous tax breaks are not allowed.
Also, for the longer-term tax breaks and extending the number of allowed tax-break, a supermajority is required for implementation whilst a short term tax break requires a simple majority.
Fixing the tax code isn't the hard part. Getting the political forces to agree and push forward with a compromise in light of their constituent's idiocy or lobbying is the hard part.
Except for accountants and tax preparation/law experts, no one wants to keep the current system. The problem is getting everyone at the table to agree.
Personally? I would like to see the end of the use of the tax code to promote social/economic policy. The tax code should be drafted to efficiently and effectively generate the revenue desired. The rates can be adjusted and tinkered to achieve the wanted revenue result.
If the government wants to support veterans or military families? Write a check and budget for it in an appropriations bill and make the tax rate hike in the tax code.
If the government would want to encourage homeowners to renovate their homes so they use energy and conserve limited resources like water in the desert? Cut a toilet replacement check and budget for it in the appropriations bill and make the tax rate hike in the tax code.
Eliminate the corporate income tax - tax natural persons directly. That gets rid of most of the problems with corporate lobbying tax advantages (e.g. coal industry, oil industry, solar power, corn based ethanol).
Corporations based out of the US spend too much time and resources trying to shift income abroad, then bringing the cash home when the feds create a corporate income tax holiday every 8 years or so when a Republican taxes office with Congress in the GOP's hands. Mid-sized to little businesses don't have that same luxury and end up at a comparative disadvantage because they can't support the tax expertise overhead or have the foreign presence necessary for shifting income abroad.
Instead of the corporate income tax - institute a consumption tax. People who consume more resources, products, and services end up paying more taxes. If you want that iPOD or eat that extra slice of pizza, pay that 3%.
Get rid of graduated tax rates (e.g. 10% on the first $50k, 15% on from $50k to $100k) - just apply a single tax rate to all of the total taxable income (so when people say "I'm in this tax bracket" - they're actually being factual instead of inflating their actual tax rates). Get rid of capital gain rates - count all income, regardless of source (e.g. investment, salary, self-employed, military combat pay).
Under the simplified system, we can also stop pointless transaction cost of collecting tax dollars from government employees. We know exactly how much the salary will be, or how much withholding is necessary to meet the income tax, so why bother "paying" the employee the full amount then taking 8-15% (effective tax rate). Just adjust the pay scale so it is 8-15% lower and don't tax it.
Again - once only natural persons are taxed, it'll encourage voters, whether Democrat, Republican, Green, libertarian, bat-****-crazy - to take a harder look at spending money.
I don't think I'm a nutter - I'm not against paying taxes or government spending - but when the government chooses to spend our collective resources, I want it to be effective. I don't think military combat income should be taxed differently than civilian income (we're all in this together), I don't think capital gain income should be treated differently than a steelworker's wage.