It's Time to Stop Talking About Tax Reform

It's Time to Stop Talking About Tax Reform

Enough already: it's time to stop talking about tax reform. Not about necessary and useful changes to the tax code - by all means, let's talk about them. But let's do away with anodyne invocations of "tax reform" as a useful shorthand for this debate. The phrase probably meant something once, but it doesn't anymore. And its feel-good connotations obscure the real hurdles to improving the tax system.

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In a recent blog post, Stan Collender argues that "tax reform" -- in the general sense of useful revisions to the tax law -- is years away. That's a safe bet, I think. There are many reasons why the current drive won't succeed. But the main one is foundational: there is no broad consensus on the meaning of reform.

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... [T]he definitional differences of 1986 were questions of emphasis and degree; while important, they seem almost quaint in the context of our current politics. In the 1980s, the parties were arguing over relatively small changes to the size and role of government in society. Today, they are having a much more serious, vastly more fundamental debate over the kind of government we want to have. The stakes are much higher.

Until that debate gets settled, tax reform will remain a chimera...

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View Joseph Thorndike's opinion in its entirety on the taxanalysts® Blog.

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