Taking Back the Tax Issue
Congressional Republicans' tax deal with President Obama managed to achieve a couple of things: one is damage their standing among the party's conservative base (Karl Rove, take notes). The other is to tarnish the party's brand as tax fighters with most voters. Yes, we all know the RNC talking point: But for Speaker Boehner agreeing to hike taxes on the "rich," taxes on middle income workers would have gone up (well, they're going up anyway).
Perceptions count in politics, but more so principles. Principles sure do matter to a party's base voters, Democrat or Republican. If the Republican Party wants durably good voter perceptions, it needs to stick to what it believes in -- or claims to -- come hell or Barack Obama.
Between now and Election Day 2014, Republicans have a lot of repair work to do to win back trust among conservatives. Republicans must persuade conservatives that the speaker's tax concession to Mr. Obama was an anomaly -- a "one and done" deal Boehner swears it to be. Without a strong conservative turnout in 2014, the Republican House majority will evaporate faster than rain in the Mohave.
So what can congressional Republicans do now to start mending fences with conservatives and reclaim the tax fighters' brand? How about using the sixty days or so leading up to April 15 (Tax Day) to launch a campaign to whack away at the incomprehensible, quirky, conflicting, unjust, and highly unpopular U.S. Tax Code?
Uncle Sam's tax code is the butt of plenty of jokes, but little reform. Republicans should position themselves as tax code super whackers -- as in whacking down that Godawful jungle of tax provisions that reward special interests and favored constituencies or penalize countless hard working Americans -- and makes taxpayers in violation of some provision or provisions at any given time (that is, if the IRS wants to play "gotcha").
Quick. As of 2012, how many pages was the U.S. Tax Code? If you said 73,608 pages you win a pile of Bernanke funny money. The U.S. Tax Code celebrates its centennial this year (whoopee!). How long was the tax code when it began one hundred years ago? Why, just a "measly" 400 pages. And did you know that since Barack Obama assumed the presidency in 2009, the federal tax code has grown by 3,288 pages? Mr. Obama's increase alone is about 2.5 times longer than the Bible. And I dare anyone to find any wisdom in Uncle Sam's tax bible.
Here's an idea. How about congressional Republicans launching Operation U.S. Tax Code Jungle Whacking? The strongest objectors to the operation besides the Big Government crowd and the IRS (job security, you know)? Environmentalists who strenuously object to rain forests being called jungles, much less being whacked down, even figuratively. So the GOP strikes a blow against political correctness, too. Bonus time.
Congressional Republicans could kick off the campaign pledging that the GOP will fight to scrap 10% of the tax code by Election Day 2014. That's striking thousands of arcane and unfair statues -- deadwood, so to speak; or prying off Uncle Sam's dead hand, in many cases. Then Republicans should vow to whack another 10% of the tax code by November 2016. With the election of a Republican president and Congress in 2016, come January 2017, congressional Republicans will scrap the tax code altogether and institute a flat tax, simpler and fairer. Out with the old taxpayers' nightmare go thousands of IRS agents, vow Republicans.
No? Improbable, you say, that congressional Republicans could successfully take machetes and axes to the dripping, slimy, fetid rain forest of federal tax statues.
Improbable as it may be, congressional Republicans need to try -- try in earnest -- to dump the tax code (and that would include ObamaCare's contribution to the tax mess). No one's talking about a slick wink and nudge PR campaign to fool conservatives (good luck) or grease up Joe and Jane Taxpayer. Republicans, typically slow on the uptake, need to double-time it and realize that their lost credibility on taxes needs to be recouped, and pronto. Rather than play "Follow Mr. Obama's Lead" for the next four, long, grueling years, Congressional Republicans need to seize the initiative. The sequester is a good start, but taxes will be a GOP Achilles' heel come the autumn of 2014, if not addressed soon.
This from IRS Tax Publication 525 (2012):
Babysitting. If you babysit for relatives or neighborhood children, whether on a regular basis or only periodically, the rules for childcare providers apply to you.
And what, pray tell, are those rules, teenage babysitter Heather or, these days, Jason? Let's look:
Childcare providers. If you provide childcare, either in the child's home or in your home or other place of business, the pay you receive must be included in your income. If you are not an employee, you are probably self-employed and must include payments for your services on Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Business, or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040), Net Profit From Business. You generally are not an employee unless you are subject to the will and control of the person who employs you as to what you are to do and how you are to do it.
So filing a Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Business, or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) might be a tad daunting for a fifteen-year-old who watches the neighbors' kids while said kids' mom and dad go for burgers and a movie? That's why there are accountants, after all, to help kids' file the proper tax forms to report the oodles of income they make babysitting. Of course, a CPA's fees might erase a babysitter's earnings, but someone -- other than IRS bureaucrats and federal paper-pushers, generally -- need to get rich off the federal tax code. Many accountants have summer homes and boat payments, too, don't they?
The federal tax code epitomizes big government: sprawling, muddled, unfair, punitive, incompetent, voracious, and ceaselessly growing. Republicans would be smart to dedicate themselves to whacking -- nay, bulldozing -- the whole lousy tax code jungle.