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The tax code

Posted: August 1, 2013 5:17 p.m.
Updated: August 2, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Dave Camp, a Republican who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, are trying to overcome partisan rancor to begin structuring a long-needed new platform for the U.S. tax code. As it is, the code is impossibly complex and cumbersome.

We have long criticized lawmakers in Washington for not attacking this problem, and it appears at long last that someone is ready to step forward. The only problem is that taxpayers don’t want to go along with any provision that might affect the deductions that help them. That’s what Baucus and Camp have found out as they have sought public input for their proposed overhaul. People with hefty mortgages are aghast at taking away the interest deduction for that. Those who give generously to charitable causes don’t want that deduction touched. Investors don’t want preferential capital gains rates to be affected. Americans are saying, “Yes, let’s simplify the tax code, but not if it affects me.”

The goal, of course, is for Congress to simplify the code, eliminate many deductions but lower rates at the same time so that revenue remains neutral. That can be done if Washington lawmakers have the will, but we Americans must cooperate if that is going to happen. That might be the hardest sell of all.

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