Why tax reform is always promised but never happens

Kimberly Adams Sep 29, 2015
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Why tax reform is always promised but never happens

Kimberly Adams Sep 29, 2015
HTML EMBED:
COPY

It’s that time in the election cycle when candidates start trotting out their plans to fix the tax code. Most everybody would agree U.S. tax laws are complicated, and the handful of candidate plans’ released so far promise to streamline and minimize taxes, but are otherwise light on details.

Presidential campaigns love calling for tax reform, but those promises haven’t often translated in to policy changes. If you are losing revenue by lowering taxes, it’s got to come from somewhere — or someone. 

“Behind every provision and loophole and deduction in the tax code,” said Scott Hodge, the president of the Tax Foundation, “there’s a pretty substantial constituency of people and businesses that live on those things.”

Not to mention the people who live off explaining those things. Troy Lewis, a CPA in Draper, Utah, said even his parents called asking about candidate’s plans. They and his other clients want to know, “Can you boil this down for me? Which one is going to reduce my taxes and put more after-tax spending ability in my wallet?”

Lewis says that’s why tax reform resonates so well on the campaign trail. Unlike many other policy issues, just about everyone can relate to it directly.

“Every presidential candidate always makes some noise about reforming the tax code,” said Veronique De Rugy, a senior fellow at the Mercatus Center.  “But,” she added, “I think there is something quite different this time around.”

She said she was encouraged by the fact so many candidates are talking about tax reform early in the process. But she and Hodge of the Tax Foundation both warn that with a Congress divided by partisanship and powerful special interests, the next president will have to show great “political courage” to actually achieve tax reform.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.