Lawmakers Lay Out Plans For Tax Reform, Many Plans

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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In the first of a series of hearings, three Republican lawmakers laid out their proposals to reform the tax code before the House Subcommittee on Ways and Means Tax Policy Tuesday.

Members of the panel on both sides of the aisle agreed the country’s tax code is broken, but squabbled over how to best tackle the issue.

“We are saddled with a code that is littered with exclusions, deductions, and special rules,” Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany of Louisiana said at the start of the hearing. “The code is so complex that Americans devote billions of hours a year to tax compliance, and they also spend tens of billions of dollars a year on tax preparation software or professional services. Imagine if all that time and money could be put to more productive use instead, jump-starting our lackluster economy.”

Rep. [crscore]Devin Nunes[/crscore] proposed the American Business Competitiveness Act of 2015, that would tax businesses based on their cash flow instead of their income. The California politician argued it would simplify the tax code and encourage business investment by allowing for 100 percent expensing of property, services, inventory and compensation.

Connecticut Democrat Rep. [crscore]John Larson[/crscore] said he “admired the simplicity” of the proposals, but had doubts about their efficiency, adding he believes the conversation is important for the country.

Rep. [crscore]Michael Burgess[/crscore] of Texas said he thinks a flat tax is the best option for the country, using the lyrics from country singer Sheryl Crow’s “Can’t Cry Anymore” to exemplify his point.

“Money comes in, but the fact is there’s not enough to pay my taxes,” he said. “And I want to help Sheryl Crow, I want to help simplify her life. The truth is I want to help every American, we have made life so difficult for the average citizen with our tax code.”

Burgess said his proposal is different from others in that people who like their tax can keep it, if not they can opt into the flat tax rate of 19 percent for the first three years, which would then drop to 17 percent.

Rep. Robert Woodall advocated for his legislation – the Fair Tax Act of 2015 – which would do away with the federal income, estate, gift, payroll and withholding taxes; replacing it instead with a national sales tax on “gross payments of taxable property or services.” The Georgia Republican said the best way to help working families would be to deal with the burdensome payroll tax.

Ranking Member [crscore]Richard Neal[/crscore] of Illinois preferred former Chairman Dave Camp’s attempt to work with Democrats on reforms over the way the committee was approaching the topic.

“I must express my frustration at a hearing that seemingly takes us backwards. The time for talk has passed. Now is the time for action,” the Illinois Democrat said. “While there were parts of his plan I disagreed with, I agreed with the methodical bipartisan approach he used to produce his draft. This bipartisan effort included members and stakeholders alike.”

The committee is slated to hold its next hearing on fundamental tax reform April 13.

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