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What Is In Tax Reform For Me / Thee

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Four hundred and thirty five members of Congress and one President of the United States will be participating in a decision to dramatically change the tax structure of the United States. Every elected member of the House of Representatives and Senate will have a vote on tax reform. The President will have the option of signing the bill if it gets to his desk.

A month ago, President Trump declared about tax reform: "And it is not good for me, believe me." President Reagan was fond of an old Russian proverb: "Trust but verify."

Paul Ryan has informed us that a couple with two children (Bob and Mary) and taxable income of $59,000 will have their income tax reduced by $1182. I have checked the math in the tax proposal; the calculation is correct. That is not the number I want to see and the number(s) I suggest every American is entitled to see. The American people are entitled to know what will happen to the income and estate taxes to be paid by Congressman Ryan and everyone else who will be voting on the tax bill.

It is time to take the covers off. Every elected member of Congress and the President have filed their tax returns for 2016. It is time to "show us theirs" ------- Before any Member of Congress votes on the tax reform bill or the President signs the tax bill, each needs to publicly inform us of the amount of tax they paid in 2016 and what their taxes would be in 2017 under the proposal. If this new law simplifies things as much as we are told, this should be an easy calculation, even for the President. Along with the difference in income tax, the public deserves to know how much every member of Congress and the President would save on their estate taxes if both they and their spouse died in 2018 or in 2023 when the estate tax is set to expire.

The Committee on Ways and Means reports that with respect to the reduction of estate taxes and their ultimate repeal in 2023, the government will lose $172.2 billion. This tax savings, by definition, will exclusively be split between relatives of individuals with net worth of over $5 million and married couples with net worth over $10 million.

It has been a few years since I read the "Art of the Deal," but I imagine that President Trump suggests that part of the magic of completing a fair transaction is if everyone knows what the other party is receiving (transparency). We deserve to know what Members of Congress, the President and also the members of his cabinet are getting via tax reform.

Remembering that famous Grammy winning country western song She Got The Gold Mine (I Got The Shaft), knowing the tax savings accruing to Members of Congress and the President will let us know if it is fair for Bob and Mary in Nebraska to get an $1182 reduction in taxes or whether Bob and Mary are being served an inexpensive hors d'oeuvre while our wealthiest taxpayers are dining at Ruth Chris from the benefits of tax reform.

The tax reform proposal is 439 pages. We are told that very, very few individuals in Congress knew the details until it was released Thursday. The proposal impacts areas of the law that literally no one anticipated, even those who follow taxes for a living. (A tiny example: Who knew that the proposal would eliminate a specific law that helps college athletics raise funds to support their programs?) We are told that it needs to be rushed through to protect the bill from lobbyists' efforts to change it. That is the worst argument against transparency in government ever offered.

There should be no rush and no lack of transparency in completing tax reform legislation. Let's use the transparency of the Congress and the President as our marker as to when everyone has had enough time to digest the tax reform package before having any votes taken in Congress.

Until every Member of Congress, along with the President, "fesses up" to the impact of tax reform on themselves, tax reform should be held in abeyance. Think of it this way, shareholders, because of laws and regulations that initially started in Congress, get to vote on the compensation of the executives of the companies they have ownership. We demand this transparency from every major company in the country. The most obvious measure of transparency on tax reform is: How will it impact my elected representative?

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