|OPINION/COMMENT By Bob Weaver|
Much ado has been made in Washington about the national debt and who pays taxes, covered 24/7 by media, one party blaming the other.
At nearly 4 million words, the U.S. tax law is so thick and complicated that businesses and individuals spend more than six billion hours a year complying with filing returns.
A congressperson said the code is 10 times the size of the Bible with none of the "good news."
Simply put, the US tax code contains tens of thousands of exemptions for corporations, groups and individuals.
Every now and then some politician will slip up and say the tax code needs to be reformed, suggesting that the nation go to a simple tax system.
Reformation of the tax code or going to a simple tax system goes nowhere.
Billions of lobbying dollars still flow into Washington, and the politics of favoritism remains the name of the game, although political parties entertain voters with blaming the other over their spend and cut practices.
Most of Americas major corporations use the tax code to their advantage, some paying no taxes at all. Many seek tax shelters like the Cayman Islands, where they take their money to avoid US taxes.
It seems almost forgotten now that Wall Street and large American banks at the end of the Bush years, put the country in the worst recession since the Great Depression.
No one, except a handful of egregious personal cases, went to jail for this greedy, atrocious crime against America.
In the meantime, most American corporations are making record-breaking profits, convincing Americans that their success and some of their Cayman Island cash will "trickle down" to what we use to hold high, the American Middle Class.
Many corporate CEOs are holding on to their billions, denying reinvestment, until they get the right tax breaks.
In the worst recession since the Great Depression, Wall Street is hitting record highs while middle class wages have remained stagnant over 20 years, and employer benefits have been cut, not to mention the unemployment.
During the Great Depression, everyone lost and suffering was shared.
Now, we have a shattering disparity between those who hold the money and America's working stiffs.
Congress seems stuck on giving tax breaks to America's most wealthy, while working stiffs just want the wealthy to pay the same tax rate that is applied to their paychecks.
"If tax compliance were an industry, it would be one of the largest industry in the United States," says the report by Nina E. Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate.
Since 2001, Congress has made almost 5,000 changes to U.S. tax law. That's an average of more than one a day, each change favoring some business or institution.
The tax code is so complicated that 60 percent of filers will pay someone to prepare their tax returns this spring.
"On the one hand, taxpayers who honestly seek to comply with the law often make inadvertent errors, causing them to either overpay their tax or become subject to IRS enforcement action for mistaken underpayments," Olson said.
"On the other hand, sophisticated taxpayers often find loopholes that enable them to reduce or eliminate their tax liabilities."
Olson ranks complexity as the most serious tax problem facing taxpayers.
While President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress struggle mightily from one fiscal cliff or Armageddon to another, most will give some lip-service to tax reform, but it's not a popular move with those who get the breaks and politicos who make their decisions on the wants of big business, extolled by their lobbyists and campaign donations.
Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the House and Ways and Means Committee says, "Our broken tax code has become a nightmare of loopholes and special interest provisions that create added complexities and costs for hardworking taxpayers and small businesses."
It is rarely the topic of TV "talking head" news, likely because most media outlets are owned by six giant corporations.
"Comprehensive tax reform would make sure everyone is playing by the same rules and help businesses create more jobs and invest in their workers," Camp said.
In all, taxpayers will save about $1.1 trillion this year by taking advantage of tax breaks, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the official scorekeeper for Congress.
That's almost as much as individuals will pay in income taxes.
To avoid angering millions of constituents, politicians prefer to endorse tax reform without getting into specifics.
President Obama has repeatedly said he wants to eliminate tax breaks for hedge fund managers and companies that buy corporate jets.
Throughout the recent fiscal cliff debate, House Speaker John Boehner said he favored raising additional tax revenue by reducing unspecified tax loopholes rather than raising income tax rates.
Olson defines "loopholes" as tax breaks that benefit someone else.