Tax lobbyists are getting a little nervous after Democratic and Republican leaders on the Senate Finance Committee began a legislative push to simplify the tax code by asking fellow lawmakers to identify which tax breaks, deductions and credits should be kept and which ones ought to be scrapped.
Democrat Max Baucus of Montana and Republican Orin Hatch of Utah sent a letter to fellow Senators indicating a desire to clear the tax code of all special breaks and “start from scratch.” Senators will have until July 26 to produce a list of breaks to keep.
“To make sure that we clear out all the unproductive provisions and simplify tax reform, we plan to operate from an assumption that all special provisions are out unless there is clear evidence that they: (1) help grow the economy, (2) make the tax code fairer, or (3) effectively promote other important policy objectives,” Baucus and Hatch told fellow Senators.
While the effort to reform the U.S. tax code is bipartisan and involves both legislative chambers, tax reform has not been a top priority of the Barack Obama White House.
But the Senate Finance Committee argues that a new look at the tax code is long overdue.
“America’s tax code is broken,” the committee’s letter reads. “The last major reform of the tax code was the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which is considered by many as the gold standard for tax reform. However, since then, the economy has changed dramatically and Congress has made more than 15,000 changes to the tax code. The result is a tax base riddled with exclusions, deductions and credits.”
The Senate Finance Committee lawmakers believe a blank slate approach will allow Congress to identify only the most important deductions and eliminate loopholes that are frequently abused in the tax code. They contend that too many tax expenditures allowed in the tax code means less revenue available to reduce tax rates or reduce the deficit.