There are certain things in life that are inevitable.
The Cubs will collapse in the post-season, the major U.S. auto manufacturers will lose money - lots of it - and my brother-in-law's latest get-rich business venture will leave a trail of angry creditors and foolishly generous relatives.
And someone will undoubtedly be assigned the Sisyphean task of heading a panel to reform the Tax Code, or at least helping streamline it to a more manageable entity.
So if you're keeping score at home, the Cubs were quickly ousted in the opening round; my brother-in-law, who ventured into food service after attempts at landscaping and car detailing, now has the approximate cash reserves of GM and Chrysler combined; and President Obama has appointed Beltway economic institution Paul Volcker to head a task force to study any number of options for reforming the Tax Code.
Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chair under Presidents Carter and Reagan, and currently at the helm of Obama's new Economic Recovery Advisory Board, will examine, among other things, the elimination of corporate loopholes and corporate welfare, tougher enforcement, aggressive strategies to reduce the $350 billion tax gap, and, of course, tax simplification.
But, you may ask, didn't the White House attempt this ambitious undertaking just a few short years ago?
The short answer would be yes. In 2005, President Bush established the President's Advisory Panel on Tax Reform, a bipartisan group that over a 10-month span conducted over a dozen town hall-style meetings, interviewed hundreds of expert witnesses (including a visit to the offices of Accounting Today), and submitted a pair of proposals.
The Bush administration proceeded to do absolutely nothing with either. In fact, I had to research our archives to accurately remember what measures the panel actually put forth.
But the current administration will apparently not be deterred by one of the lower-level failures of the former occupant of the Oval Office. Whether the decision to resurrect a tax reform panel in order to source more revenue streams sprang from the fact that the president's budget is getting squeezed in a partisan vise would be purely subjective on my part.
But it's certainly a step in the right direction - provided there is some follow-through.
Unlike the marching orders delivered to the Bush tax team, the new and improved advisory cadre will have just two restrictions: no increase in taxes on families earning less than $250,000 a year, and no tax increases in 2009 or 2010. The panel will submit its recommendations to the president by December 4.
I'd be the last to say that the Tax Code does not scream for a revamp. In fact, few would argue that it's probably decades overdue. But as we've learned with several past attempts at reforming the Tax Code, the span between a recommendation and action can be longer, well, even longer than the code itself.
(c) 2009 Accounting Today and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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