Thursday, April 06, 2006

From Chequer-Board, Iowa's Senior Senator:

"Any Joe can hang a shingle and prepare income tax returns. There are no requirements at all," Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said. "It's incredible that we have legal requirements for a barber to cut your hair, but there are no requirements for someone to prepare your taxes. Americans have a right to expect that when they hire a tax preparer they're going to get honest, straightforward advice."

First off, I think it's insane that we have legal requirements to be a barber, but that's beside the point. What's more ridiculous is that he's busy ripping on private agencies when the IRS can't even do it right:

Two decades ago, Ralph Nader's Tax Reform Research Group prepared 22 identical tax reports based on the fictional economic plight of a married couple with one child. Identical copies were submitted to 22 different IRS offices around the country.

Each office came up with an entirely different tax figure. Results varied from a refund of $811.96 recommended in Flushing, N.Y., to a tax-due figure of $52.13 demanded by the IRS office in Portland, Ore.

In a 2005 test of the system by the Treasury Inspector General, 35% of answers were incorrect. The Treasury Inspector General tested the system again to measure the quality of the taxpayer assistance during the 2005 filing season.

The poor performance was attributed to the representatives not using the prepared guide scripts or not interpreting the law correctly.

Well, since "not interpreting the law correctly" is the definition of a wrong answer, that's the logical equivalent of saying "They got it wrong because they got it wrong."

So what's the solution? Simplify the bloody thing before it makes us all criminals. I'm in favor of a flat tax, but wouldn't really object to a consumption tax. This progressive-tax scheme with exceptions everywhere and bizarre rules that nobody knows is impossible to keep up, not to mention a drag on the economy. But that's just my opinion. Maybe you should go ask an economist.


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