Editorial

Tax reform

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

After a year of studying the federal tax system, the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform has issued a report that has stirred little comment from taxpayers.

Maybe the lack of reaction is because of everything else dominating headlines these days.

Or maybe it's because the panel's recommendations sounded less like reform than a redo of the existing jungle of tax laws.

What little reaction there has been to the panel's proposals has been focused on the recommendation to eliminate the popular deduction for interest paid on home mortgages and convert into a limited tax credit.

Even the White House reaction to the proposals has been less than enthusiastic, mostly because President Bush would like to make tax reform a key part of his next State of the Union address, but he wants any overhaul to pass political as well as economic muster.

Although the panel considered such alternatives as a national sales tax or a flat income tax to replace the current complex tax code, it didn't give even a nod to those ideas in its report.

At the heart of any tax reform likely to spark public and political debate is the question of whether the end result will be seen as fairer to taxpayers while achieving revenue goals. Tax reform, it seems, would need to be accompanied by a plan that also reins in spending.

While the panel's recommendations aren't building much steam, tax reform is still a worthy issue that should demand serious ideas and debate.

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