George Will
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     Linder says Americans spend 7 billion hours a year filling out IRS forms and at least that much calculating the tax implications of business decisions. Economic growth suffers because corporate boards waste huge amounts of time on such calculations rather than making economically rational allocations of resources. Money saved on compliance costs would fund job creation.

     Corporations do not pay payroll and income taxes and compliance costs, they collect them from consumers through prices. So the 23 percent consumption tax would allow taxpayers to stop paying the huge embedded cost of corporate taxation. Linder says the director of the Congressional Budget Office told him it costs individuals and businesses about $500 billion to remit $2 trillion to Washington. And studies show that it costs the average small business $724 to collect and remit $100.

     In 1945, corporations paid more than one-third of the government's revenues. Now they pay only 11 percent because corporations, especially multinationals, are voluntary taxpayers. In a world increasingly without borders that block capital movements, corporations pay where the burden is lowest. Linder says $6 trillion in offshore accounts would have an incentive to come home under his plan.

     Furthermore, by ending payroll and corporate taxes, America would become the only nation selling goods with no tax component -- such as Europe's value added tax -- in their prices. With no taxes on capital and labor, multinationals would, Linder thinks, stampede to locate here, which would be an incentive for other nations to emulate America. ``This,'' Linder says, ``would unleash freedom around the globe.''

     Critics argue that ending the income tax, with its deductibility of charitable contributions, would depress giving. Linder says: Piffle. In 1980, when the top personal income tax rate was 70 percent, a huge incentive for giving, individual charitable contributions were $40.7 billion. In 1986 the top rate was reduced to 28 percent, and by 1988 charitable giving was $86.7 billion. The lesson, says Linder, is that we give more money when we have more money.

     When Speaker Dennis Hastert published a book last year, he was startled that interviewers were most interested in talking about Linder's bill, which then had 54 co-sponsors. This year Hastert added Linder to the Ways and Means Committee. Linder cheerfully says his bill would reduce Ways and Means to ``a B committee'' by ending the political fun of making the tax code ever more baroque for the benefit of K Street's clients. Bliss.

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George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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