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April 15th, 2012
07:14 AM ET

Letters to the President #1182: 'Reforming the tax code'

Reporter's Note: President Obama released his tax records late last week.

Dear Mr. President,

As you read this, no doubt millions and millions of our fellow Americans are trying to pull their taxes together. They have piles of paper spread out all over the dining room table, and they are cursing a lot, and they are desperately trying to make sense of all those IRS forms, and unless things get better by nightfall they’ll be kicking the dog and threatening divorce.

The fundamental reason for all this angst (aside from the fact that many of us wait until the last minute) is the ridiculously complicated federal tax code. And “code” is the right word for it, because frankly sometimes I think I could sort out the secrets of the Rosetta Stone quicker than I could make sense of all the rules, regulations, deductions and reductions in our tax law.

For years now I’ve had an accountant do my taxes for two primary reasons: 1) Because I hate doing them so much, I’d be willing to have a tooth removed annually rather than tackle that task and 2) Because they are just so maddeningly complicated, I’m pretty sure if I did them on my own I would make some horrible mistake that would wind me up in prison.

The funny thing is both major political parties have howled about the same thing for years. Democrats and Republicans alike have screamed over and over about how we have to simplify the tax laws, make it possible for people to file on a postcard, and all manner of such claims. Yet nothing happens. Because in the end, each side bogs down trying to make sure that any such change will somehow favor their agenda, and down the tubes the whole plan goes.

We make a lot in the media about how voters don’t like elected leaders because of big philosophical differences over the role of government, taxation, spending, corruption, yadda yadda yadda. But many people, I think, dislike federal office holders at this time of year for a much simpler reason: Because you all know there is a problem, you all admit there is a problem, and yet year after year after year you do nothing about it…and yet April 15th comes around just the same.

Regards,
Tom