The Government Accountability Office released a comprehensive overview of the tax reform debate.

"Understanding the Tax Reform Debate: Background, Criteria and Questions" begins with a history and general explanation of the evolution and need for taxes. The report also notes that in 2005, Americans will pay about $2.1 trillion in combined federal taxes, including income, payroll and excise taxes, or about 16.8 percent of gross domestic product.

The document also provides an overview of the fundamental design of the federal tax system, explaining the question of whether to use a base income or a consumption tax, and whether the rate structure should be flat or more progressive.

The report, which notes that it is not intended to break new conceptual ground, brings together a number of topics that experts have identified as those to be considered when evaluating tax policy. This report attempts to provide information about these topics in an easily understandable manner for a non-technical audience, and draws on a number of government studies, academic articles and the advice of tax experts as its sources.

The 77-page overview is available online at www.gao.gov/new.items/d051009sp.pdf.

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