Friday, October 2, 2009

National Tax Bee: further thoughts

While the tax gap is a serious problem, and the complexity of US tax law places huge burdens on all Americans, Americans have a well-deserved reputation as some of the most law-abiding taxpayers in the world. Surveys show that most Americans actually want to comply with the tax law, and many take enormous time, trouble, and expense to do so.

Last year, an exchange student told me that her parents back home in another country do not need to file tax returns, because, as she put it, "The government just knows everything about you, and they just take the money away before you ever get it."

In some countries, cheating the government out of taxes is actually something of a national sport.

During World War II, most Americans took great pride in complying with tax law, which was relatively new for them. Before World War II, only a very small percentage of Americans paid income taxes. As the saying goes, during World War II, the income tax went from a "class tax" (on the wealth) to a "mass tax" (on almost everybody.)

Perhaps a National Tax Bee could celebrate and promote the fact that American taxpayers are actually among the most law-abiding in the world.

It's also important to promote the role of the many competent and conscientious tax preparers who help those taxpayers deal with the compliance burdens our tax law imposes.

We hear about the scofflaws and the incompetent, but it's really important to recognize the many honest taxpayers and the professionals who are doing their best to help them comply with our country's tax laws.

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