While you are all diligently beavering away getting your 2016 tax returns done in time for the April 18th deadline, I thought I’d correct some fundamental misperceptions about our nation’s tax system.
When anyone starts lecturing you that the US has the highest tax rate in the industrialized world, just turn around, walk away, and pretend you never heard of them.
This person is either ignorant about this country’s taxation system, or is deliberately trying to deceive you.
According to a report released by the Internal Revenue Service for the 2014 tax year, the most recent for which figures are available, (click here for the link at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/14intop400.pdf ), the top 400 individual tax returns filed in 2014 reported an average gross income of $317.8 million each.
Their combined returns declared $127.1 billion in gross income, accounting for 1.3% of the national total.
The average amount of tax paid by these individuals came to $73.5 million, or a mere 23.1% of the total.
This explains why Warren Buffet pays a much lower tax rate than his secretary. It really is true that in America, only the poor people pay taxes.
Look at any international comparison of taxes to GDP, and one can always find the United States at the bottom of the table.
Low American taxes are one of the main reasons why I moved my company here from England 20 years ago.
Take a look at the Fortune 500, where one third of the largest companies pay no tax at all, and many that dominate the top of the list, like the oil majors and technology companies, pay only token amounts.
However, if any politician wants to pander to voters during election time on a tax-cutting platform he will only bluster on about “high tax rates”, not actual taxes paid.
What the US has that other countries lack is the 77,000 pages of the Internal Revenue Code.
It is a 100-year accumulation of deductions, accelerated depreciation rates, tax credits, and other tax breaks that are the end product of intensive lobbying efforts and bribes by special interest groups, corporations, unions, and even religious groups.
If you do have a big tax bill, you need to hire a new accountant.
Take a look at the oil industry again. The oil depletion allowance permits drillers to deduct a substantial portion of the cost of a new well in the first year.
When I first got into the oil and gas business 15 years ago, after reading the relevant sections of the tax code, I couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t drilling for Texas tea.
The total value of this one tax break to the industry is estimated at $55 billion a year. This explains why we have had three presidents from Texas in the last 50 years.
Some of this money ends up in campaign donations. And this is all happening when the markets are absolutely flooded with oil. So, we’re subsidizing oil production?
I have a very simple solution to the country’s budget deficit problem. Hit the reset button.
Eliminate the Internal Revenue Code. Just set it on fire or send it to the recycling bin. Keep the existing progressive, hockey stick tax rates on income, but eliminate all deductions.
And I mean everything: deductions for dependents, home mortgage interest, medical expenses, charitable contributions, the works.
The oil depletion allowance and other corporate loopholes are worth at least $150 billion a year in lost federal revenues. There are no sacred cows.
My revised Form 1040 would be much like the original 1913 return, a postcard that would have only five lines on it:
Social Security number
The budget deficit would disappear overnight. Government spending would shrink dramatically, because you could ditch most of the 100,000 who work for the IRS.
Some 1.3 million auditors, CPAs, tax attorneys, and bookkeepers would have to hit the road in search of new work too.
The amount of money that is wasted on tax collection in this country is truly staggering. This is not some pie in the sky concept. This is how taxation already works in most countries, and they seem to get along just fine.
In fact, the whole scheme might even pay for itself.
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