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SIMPLIFY TAX LAWS THAT STIFLE HAPLESS INDIVIDUAL TAXPAYER

Now, how about a Contract with Taxpayers?

Congress claims it intends to cut out regulations that stifle business. Why not cut out tax laws that stifle taxpayers?Tax complications are unfunded mandates against taxpayers. Talk to people who prepare their own returns. Who pays for that time? Not Washington.

This freeze-regulations rhetoric from our new batch of politicians won't help. Tax regulations don't increase complications. They explain existing laws.

And don't start by trying to simplify Form 1040. That form only reflects complicated laws. Instead, Congress should perform root canal surgery on tax laws.

Don't be distracted. Every few years, or maybe every year, some politician says a flat tax will solve the problem. Sounds simple. But is it simple or stupid? Think about what it means.

The flat tax implies a single rate and flat income without business and nonbusiness deductions. A single rate wouldn't simplify much. It might save a few minutes in preparing a return, but that's all. The idea has two major flaws:

- It eliminates nonbusiness deductions. These include charitable contributions, home mortgage interest, property taxes, casualty losses. Congress always has assumed these deductions help society or taxpayers in a crisis. And most of us have tended to agree.

- It eliminates business deductions. It would be unfair to drop business expenses. Think about it. A cab driver couldn't deduct his gasoline, a painter his paint. Doing away with these deductions would require people to pay taxes even if they lose money on a deal.

So here's a few suggestions for Congress:

- Don't let Congress write the simplified law. Simplification to them means changing. Even reducing the number of rates from about 100 to 3, which they did once, didn't simplify the law.

- Freeze tax laws. Then the public, and even the Internal Revenue Service, would have time to learn what the present laws mean.

- Form a committee of seasoned return preparers. These people have had it with the system. They could delve into the present laws and recommend simplification.

One other thing: To get this law passed, give members of Congress a choice: Vote for simplification or prepare your own tax return.