Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Congress Shouldn't Be Allowed To Pass Tax Laws

Yes, I know that sounds silly since it's Congress' job to enact all kinds  of legislation, including tax laws.  However the manner in which they have done their job when it comes to taxation indicates a basic inability to properly carry this out.  Today, they enacted legislation governing the treatment of several dozen tax items for the year 2014.  Yes, two weeks before the end of the year they establish the rules that apply for the entire year.  Or to put it another way, affected taxpayers did not know during most of 2014 what the tax law treatment would ultimately be for these items. 

Making this more ridiculous is the fact that many of these tax provisions are incentives, intended to encourage taxpayers to make certain types of expenditures.  This includes credits and deductions for spending money on research and development, to develop alternative energy sources, to invest in new equipment, and so on.  And what kind of incentive is it if you award it after most of the year has passed and taxpayers have already decided to incur or not incur those expenditures?  Perhaps the most egregious example is this year's tax credit for energy efficient windows.  Not only is this "incentive" given retroactively to purchases already made in 2014, but almost every window sold in the United States today qualifies for the tax credit.  Talk about money for nothing!

And oh yeah.  Because it was well known that Congress might or might not enact these provisions, the IRS can't issue tax forms for 2014, and until the tax forms are issued, taxpayers can't file their tax returns.  Is this any way to run a tax system?  Of course not.  But does Congress care?  Of course not.  They do this at the end of every year.  Today's changes expire at December 31, 2014.

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