Top 20 Quotes of T.R. Reid:
✴ Americans spend about 6 billion hours a year collecting the data and filling out the forms. We spend $10 billion to H&R Block and other preparers. And on top of that, $2 billion in tax preparation software, which still takes hours of work. It's outrageous the burden we put on people, and guess what, you go to Europe, you go to Japan, it's 15 minutes and costs nothing.
✴ We cut tax exemptions in 1986, it was the most admired tax reform in U.S. history. Congress and the president worked together then to eliminate scores of loopholes and exemptions and deductions; this made taxes much simpler, and allowed a major cut in tax rates.
✴ We have the most expensive compliance system in the world. The IRS brags that they spend 35 cents for every $100 they collect. They're very efficient collectors. And the reason is they stick the real cost on you and me.
✴ The higher the rate, the more interest there is in avoiding the tax. Either you move or you shift your profits overseas, as American corporations have proven very good at doing.
✴ France, they're the world champion at soaking the rich on taxes. And at one point, they had what they called a hyper tax, 75 percent, and Gérard Depardieu and many others left the country.
✴ It was an easy thing to tax for a young country. And then gradually we moved to property taxes, manufacturing taxes, and the income tax was the answer to a populist demand: Let's go after the rich guys. We got into World War I, and they raised the rates and started taxing the rich. Then we got into World War II, and that's when they taxed everybody, because they just needed more revenue.
✴ Our tax code becomes so absurdly complex every 32 years that we have no choice but to scrap it and re-write. The 32-year period is up in 2018. So the time has come. History tells us that we're going to produce a fairer, simpler tax code by 2018.
✴ In the United States, unlike any other advanced democracy, money really talks. Our Supreme Court has said that spending money on politicians is a form of free speech. No other court has said that.
✴ When it comes to taxation, Americans are still banging out letters on a typewriter and dropping them in the mail box while everybody else has moved on to texting and Instagram.
✴ There's a tradeoff. Yeah, I lose the deduction that I really like, but my tax rate is going to go down, and I don't have to fill out that form anymore. It's much simpler, rates are lower, and that tradeoff has worked in many countries. Many countries have just cleaned house of all those exemptions in order to provide lower rates, and people buy it.
✴ If your employer pays your health insurance, that's not counted as income to you. And any economist would say that's your income, because they'd pay a higher wage if they didn't take it. That's a huge loss to the Treasury.
✴ You also get a deduction in America for taking a night school course, growing sugarcane, moving to a new city for a job, replanting a forest, insulating the attic, destroying old farm equipment, employing Native Americans, commuting to work by bicycle - but only if the bike is regularly used for a substantial portion of travel - or buying a plug-in hybrid sports car, or buying a recreational vehicle. I mean there are hundreds of them, and most of them are nuts.
✴ Starting in the '80s or so, after the United States sharply cut its rates, other countries decided they better do it too, and here's how you do it: you just wipe out the exemptions, the deductions, the credits, the depreciation allowances. And people complain, "Oh my God, it's terrible," but you give them much lower rates and you give them an easier form to file, and people accept that tradeoff.
✴ I really like the idea of consumption tax, and most countries have a pretty serious consumption tax. It's called a value-added tax or a goods and services tax ... It's a sales tax. It doesn't tax labor, it doesn't tax savings or investment - it taxes consumption.
✴ It turns out a VAT - a value-added tax - is a very easy tax to collect and a very hard tax to evade. It's a really good idea. It was invented about 60 years ago in France, of course. Because they're so good at taxing. They had a business tax that was easy to evade, and the head of the French IRS invented this value-added tax, which is very hard to evade.
✴ Professor Eric Zolt of UCLA, said to me, "The VAT is such a good idea, mark my words, within five years, the U.S. will have a VA