The current tax code has become a convoluted knot of deductions and credits. In Tennessee this week, President Obama hinted at his interest in seeing that code change. The President’s attention to the issue immediately drew a hailstorm of debate in Washington over tax reform.
The biggest problem with our tax code is that it has been used and abused by politicians for political agendas rather than as a simple method for raising the basic revenue for the function of our state. Along this line, politicians are able to solidify their constituency by carving out exemptions for the business interests that support their candidacies. Additional deductions, credits and rebates have added to the size of our nation’s operating costs for reviewing increasingly complex tax returns.
This is one place where our system is broken. President Obama and Congress are offering only more of the same. Conventional attitudes have proposed that any future solution must address income tax reform separately from corporate tax reform. In order to mediate a solution between Democrats and Republicans, tax reform must be dealt with as a whole. Parsing through the code in a piecemeal approach will render a piecemeal solution – not a holistic solution.
Any tax reform solution must occur at the highest level with a complete overhaul of both income and corporate taxes.
Currently, our society has awarded size of institutions rather than innovative, low-impact operations that encourage accountability. Because of the deduction maze, overweight entities can hire a legal tax team to navigate the tax return process, find loopholes, and increase profit margins. These tasks are disproportionately expensive for smaller businesses. The problem with overweight corporations, their ownership over the federal government, and their propensity to promote wealth inequality and waste may be solved through a proper corporate regressive tax.
A corporate progressive tax would tax revenue, not profit, such that the tax would be more akin to an income tax. Moreover, the tax percentage would increase as a corporation expanded revenue. There are a multitude of reasons why corporations deserve a progressive tax.
Corporations are considered by law to be fictitious persons. However, persons cannot balloon to the size of the moon; corporations can. A progressive tax ensures that as corporations expand, their exponential use of resources, amplification of waste, and propensity to marginalize labor comes with a higher price tag to be paid to society. As shareholders in our nation’s resources, we should all be paid when a corporation is able to capitalize clear-cutting a copse that provides us air, shade, food, and a nice view. It should not be allowed to deduct its way out of this cost.
Finally, a corporate progressive tax would be a treatment for the problem of growing wealth inequality in our nation. A large corporation or bank would not have the luxury of paying a windfall to its board and officers, particularly when such an entity is provided an incentive to remain smaller and more nimble.
Income taxes, however, should be flat. Unlike corporations, human beings have a maximum capacity for productivity and waste.
The answer to tax reform is simplicity. Deductions and credits create complicated arrangements where certain industries are rewarded and certain industries are punished – often for little reason other than politics. Simple solutions with simple revenue projections will make the function of our federal government more clear and concise.
And ultimately, to prevent politicians from usurping the tax code once again for their own political gain, Lawrence Lessig and David Segal’s suggestion to convene a modern-era Constitutional Convention would have to occur. Short of that, we would only see more of the same.