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Brownback Pitches US Flat Tax Plan

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

18 April 2007

As millions of US taxpayers tried to beat Tuesday's tax filing deadline, US Republican presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) took the opportunity to push his proposals to simplify the US tax code, including a form of flat tax.

Speaking to reporters in Iowa, Brownback hinted that his plans would be less controversial than those proposed by former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes, and would yield a comparable level of revenue for the government as the current system.

"I'm not taking on the current tax code from the standpoint of removing it," he explained, according to the Associated Press. "I'm saying create an alternative and let people pick."

Although Brownback has not yet finalised his ideas into concrete proposals, he said that one option he is considering would give taxpayers an element of choice regarding how they pay and file their taxes for a pre-determined period, likely to be about five years.

The Kansas Senator has previously argued that the need for a new Federal tax system is "urgent", describing the current tax code as "confusing, complex, and overly burdensome".

"In 2003 alone, $203 billion were spent just on preparing taxes; increases in the tax law's complexity have added roughly 1 billion hours in annual paperwork over the last 10 years," Brownback noted in a statement posted on his website.

He has pointed out that the 2003 1040 Form contained 73 lines, up from 68 lines in 1985 and 34 lines in 1935. Meanwhile, the 2003 Instruction Booklet for the 1040 has grown to 131 pages in length, from 52 pages in 1985 and 2 pages in 1935.

"Hard working American taxpayers spend too much of their time and money preparing their taxes each year. It is time for the Federal government to sunset the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, and move to a simple, fair alternative system," his statement added.

Brownback has mooted that the US should move to a tax system that embodies 6 key principles: applying a low rate to all Americans; providing tax relief for working Americans; protecting the rights of taxpayers and reducing tax collection abuses; eliminating bias against savings and investment; promoting economic growth and job creation; and not penalizing marriage or families.

Tax reform and simplification of the tax code was initially a central plank of President Bush's economic policy, although this goal seems to have been placed on the back burner since a tax reform panel reported its recommendations in late 2005. While this panel briefly flirted with the idea of introducing some form of flat tax, it was shelved in favour of two less controversial proposals that reduced the number of tax brackets and stripped away the deductions and special interest tax breaks that make the current system so opaque.

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