Tags: tax | Obama | English | Congress

Congress Should Translate the Tax Code Into English

Monday, 30 March 2015 08:16 AM Current | Bio | Archive

How can you believe any politician who tells you that he is going to reform the tax code? Why would you vote for any politician you doubt?

There is little question that not a single member of the Congress can read and explain the tax code. I doubt any have ever tried.

To put it plainly, the tax code is some 77,000 pages of convoluted, arcane language whose intricacies and endlessly abusive cross references render it not fit for consumption by normal human beings.

The mandated regulations written by the bureaucrats are more of the same, except on steroids.

Whenever there is any question about the tax code, it is left to tax experts to discern what is meant or how it should be applied. The problem is that there is not even a single tax expert who can tell you what any section says without having a second highly trained expert claim, with equal certainty, that the specific section actually means something quite different. Ask a third or fourth tax expert and the conflicting interpretations expand exponentially.

However, Congress has enacted legislation that could require the governmental bureaucracy to translate the tax code and all substantive regulations from their current form of unintelligible hyper-technocratic tax language into plain English.

In 2010, the year that heralded such fine legislation as Obamacare and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

I'm not kidding. They really did pass it.

The Act requires the federal government to write its publications, forms and publicly distributed documents in a "clear, concise, well-organized manner."

Congress, though marginalized and seemingly less relevant to governing, is still part of the U.S. government.

Obama also signed in 2010 two related Executive Orders — the new normal method of federal governance — which require regulations to be "simple and easy to understand, with the goal of minimizing uncertainty and litigation" and "the regulation must specify its effect 'in clear language.'"

Unfortunately, violations of the act do not appear to bring any punishment. Too bad, because the taxpayers would have been far more pleased if there were some good old-fashioned retribution visited on the offending bureaucrats and members Congress.

But, since Congress and the president have already done the heavy legislative lifting in 2010, then the next step should be a no-brainer.

What's the next step?

Congress could easily pass a bill that requires the United States Treasury to translate the tax code and its related substantive regulations into one document written in plain English. The legislation can be three sentences long if written "in clear language."

Any candidate for high office ought to be able to say with a straight face that they can actually read the tax code before credibly claiming they know how to reform it.

I think that whichever politician becomes the driving force behind having the tax code and its regulations translated into readable English as one document will be, in this election cycle, the high-profile and odds on favorite candidate with the voters and campaign contributors.

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How can you believe any politician who tells you that he is going to reform the tax code? Why would you vote for any politician you doubt?
tax, Obama, English, Congress
Monday, 30 March 2015 08:16 AM
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