Originally created 04/15/04

Sales tax the best tax

There's one good thing about Income Tax Day - it reminds taxpayers how awful their government's income tax code is and how desperately in need of reform it is.

Unfortunately, the anger passes after a day or so, as Americans get back to living their lives. And Congress goes back to picking their pockets.

It is, however, encouraging that two Georgia GOP congressmen - U.S. Rep. John Linder and U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss - are taking leadership roles in trying to change the system. They have both introduced bills calling for a national sales tax to replace the hodgepodge system we have now.

It's virtually impossible to overstate just how bad the current tax system really is. To start with, it's the government's most intrusive agency. The only thing more intrusive than having Internal Revenue Service agents mucking around in your life would be to be forced to house soldiers in your home - and that's prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.

Why, then, do we allow IRS agents to essentially be quartered in our homes? No one in his right mind would ever author a tax system like what we have now - more than 40,000 pages long and weighing several pounds. It's so complicated that even the IRS can't figure out what it means. Yet, if an IRS agent decides you've figured your taxes incorrectly, he can fine you, seize your property and ruin your life.

It couldn't be more confusing or unfair, yet except for lawmakers like Linder and Chambliss, Congress is reluctant to change the tax code significantly because it's where they get much of their power. Lawmakers like to exploit taxes to reward friends, punish enemies and manipulate the conduct of businesses and individuals - i.e, social engineering.

And that's not the worst of it. The average taxpayer, who works until late April to pay off his tax bill, must also shell out hundreds of dollars more to a tax expert to help him figure out what the government's tax take is.

It's clear why a national sales tax between 17 and 23 percent - excluding medicine, food and a handful of other necessities - is infinitely preferable to what we have now.

FairTax, the nonprofit public interest group that has researched and lobbied for the national sales tax, says it is fair, more efficient and progressive - wealthy people generally pay more in sales taxes because they buy more stuff.

But that's only part of the good news story. A national sales tax would also make the IRS unnecessary and save taxpayers hundreds of millions in tax preparers' fees. This wouldn't be as true for the flat tax, another tax reform in the legislative hopper which - though it's an improvement on the current tax system - basically distracts from the best reform plan, the national sales tax.

Let's remember that while planning our taxes for next year.


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