Simple honesty can fit on a bumper sticker

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Column by Jim Flynn

If you are self-employed or retired you’ve already sent to the IRS your first estimated tax payment for 2012 - real money based on income you haven’t received yet.
Meanwhile, living nearby are some of the 46 percent of Americans who paid no taxes for 2011 and are unlikely to pay any in 2012. Our system of taxation is mysterious and corrupt.
Tax laws are called a code because they’re supposed to be understandable rules for collection and payment of taxes. In reality our tax laws and IRS rulings are 70,000 pages of Washington gobbledygook, which include hundreds of loopholes.
The Tax Code is a deceptive game of hide-in-plain-sight. One of my favorite deceptions was a politically influenced ruling that millions in earnings from a worldwide tour by a famous performer should be treated as profits from an investment of her body and voice, and taxed at the lower rate of capital gains.
Depending on whom you know, warbling around the world in grand style can be construed as risk-taking. On the other hand singing Saturday night at a local nightclub to earn a few extra bucks on weekends is taxed at the higher rates of ordinary income.
Some giant corporations also pay less tax than others for reasons not intended to be understood by ordinary taxpayers. It’s all part of the game of politically preferred treatment for friends and supporters.
How can we fix the goulash we refer to as the U.S. Tax Code? The only intelligent answer is to deposit the code, rulings, and forms 1040 AtoZ in a recycle trash bin and start anew. An attempt by Congress to reform the current tax code would most likely result in adding goo to the same old stew.
There are a number of alternative ideas for raising revenue to run the government. Many European countries have a value-added tax (VAT) on production. It’s easy to collect and difficult to defraud, but it doesn’t do away with all other taxes, and it tends to encourage bigger government.
Then there’s the Fair Tax, a national retail sales tax with refunds to help the less fortunate. It’s almost as complicated as our present tax code. A fair tax bill has been gathering dust in Congress for more than a decade.
Our favorite is a Flat Tax on all income, regardless of source – salaries, benefits, bonuses, dividends, interest, inheritances, capital gains, gambling, lotteries and profits. Our vision is a tithe (ten percent) from income above the poverty level and from business profits. All citizens and business beneficiaries should have a financial stake in the success and well being of the nation.
Editor, columnist, and television host Fareed Zakaria suggested playfully that the logical remedy for our corrupt and complex tax system would be a two-page tax code, with no room for loopholes, preferences, credits, exemptions, and exceptions.
There’s a bumper sticker which describes a two-page Flat Tax: “If 10% is enough for God, it’s enough for the IRS.”

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