Time to end the season of fear in America
April 17, 2005
For those who made the April 15 deadline, the end of tax season can be a huge weight lifted off the shoulders. For those who filed extensions, or failed to file altogether, there is more agony ahead in the coming months.
Despite the sense of relief, many taxpayers are left with a sour taste in their mouths – not necessarily that they have to pay taxes, but that every year the tax code becomes more complicated and convoluted. For many, filing a simple 1040 with deductions takes too much time, and requires too much spending for the services of a tax preparer. With the problem compounding year after year, it may be time for a tax overhaul that simplifies the process and lessens the burden for taxpayers.
According to a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll of 1,001 people, 70 percent of respondents said federal taxes are too complicated. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they would prefer a trip to the dentist to filing taxes (48 percent chose filing taxes). According to IRS estimates, nine million of the 133 million tax filers in America were expected to file extensions. Between two and three million people are expected to miss the tax deadline altogether.
While the poll represents dissatisfaction with the American tax system, there is little consensus on how to fix it. A majority of those polled said they were opposed to eliminating tax credits and deductions (like those used to write-off mortgage interest and medical expenses) that complicate filing.
A national sales (or consumption) tax, to replace income tax, met with skepticism in the poll, as did the idea of a flat tax. The two proposals would simplify the tax code, but would equalize tax rates regardless of income. Fifty-seven percent of those polled said people with higher incomes should pay higher taxes. (Only 40 percent thought tax rates should be the same for everyone.)
So the jury is out on how we simplify taxes for average Americans, but the need to do it is clear. And the sooner the better. Simplify the process and ordinary Americans won’t have to spend the first two weeks of April in fear.
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