>It is tax season and once again the Roger Rabbits on Capitol Hill are delving into our Toontown IRS. Last week the Government Accountability Office testified before the Senate Finance Committee that professional tax preparers were making mistakes! Seems GAO workers posed as hapless taxpayers like you and me and secretly shopped 19 commercial chain tax preparers. Their erroneous results ranged from refunds of $2,000 to tax bites of $1,500. Lo, the professional preparers missed really simple stuff like the child-and-dependent-care-credit-for-a-single-parent, or correctly claiming college-credits-for-a-dependent-in-an-accredited-and-therefore-IRS-recognized-institute-of-higher-education on an itemized return.
This is news?
Blind study after blind study shows that tax returns prepared by the most reputable and capable firms vary wildly when handling identical documentation. Indeed, blind study after blind study shows that little people like you and me who call the IRS hotline for assistance sometimes get incorrect tax advice from the IRS’ own employees. Try this Mr. Senate and Mr. House: let’s have all 535 lawmakers secretly shop their personal returns among the five leading chains and we call all to see how their individual results will inevitably vary, and vary widely.
“It’s incredible that we have legal requirements for someone to qualify as a barber to cut your hair, and yet there are no requirements for someone to prepare your taxes,” said the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) during last week’s GAO testimony.
Talk about treating the symptom instead of the disease!
Senator Grassley proposes to grow further the Tax Beast with a whole new bureaucratic layer of certification for millions of preparers. The hirsute 800-pound gorilla in the Hearing Room that the lawmakers can’t seem to see but hits us taxpayers in the gut each April is simple. The problem is not tax preparers, but a Tax Code so complex, so convoluted, so arcane, so intertwined with itself that no one, professional or amateur, could ever get it right, certification or no certification.
Truth is, Senator Grassley, there is no truth.
Each year you and your lawmaker buds at the federal and state levels cram thousands and thousands of obscure provisions into the Tax Code, and each year Alice falls further and further down the rabbit hole into a Wonderland of accelerated depreciation for x-ray equipment, wind farm credits, overseas deferred income, railroad pensions and who knows what else? If all the letters in the Tax Codes were bricks, they could probably double the length of the Great Wall of China with sufficient leftovers to repave the Appian Way.
It is time to trim the Tax Code. Where is Edward Scissorshands when we need him? It is time to take the dread out of the IRS’ dreadlocks. We have created a Tax Beast bigger and hairier than King Kong. The man in the White House might even agree. During the last presidential campaign Bush gave lip service to simplifying the Tax Code, but no specifics. Since his re-election the proposal has vanished like a lone butterfly caught in a 200-mph hurricane of special interests.
So here we are in tax season, the prime of spring, lost in Uncle Sam’s tax rabbit hole when we should be outdoors enjoying the sunshine with our loved ones. If we can’t trim tax laws in the near future, maybe we can at least move the day of reckoning to a colder time of year. The Fed’s Fiscal Year ends on September 30 so why not our personal tax year? We should move Tax Day from April 15 to October 31 where it belongs. Why not? Taxes are the biggest trick and treat going. Believe me, the IRS will come knocking on your door and if you fail to treat them with your hard earned dollars their tricks include penalties, attachments and even jail. As an added bonus, on even years the Halloween tax deadline would move our collective Toontown tax opera within a week of the mid-term and Presidential elections, which is exactly where it belongs on the political calendar.