Tax Simplification

James Taranto:

We’re tempted to say America needs a Treasury secretary who is smart enough to figure out his own taxes. But such a cheap shot would be beneath us. Instead, we are going to make a serious point:America needs a tax code simple enough for the Treasury secretary to figure out.

Hear hear.

Story via Insty. Pic via Daily Hamster.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Franklin says:

    I kind of liked the 2-step simplicity in that old joke about Clinton’s tax plan:

    1) How much money did you make last year? _____
    2) Send it in.

  2. Bithead says:

    America needs a tax code simple enough for the Treasury secretary to figure out.

    Well, message for the both of you… this idea works on the unproved premise that Geithner was actually trying to figure it out, or in fact that he couldn’t. It is increasingly apparent to me and a host of others, inclduing, apparently, many Democrats, that the guy didn’t care, and didn’t plan to pay his taxes until such time as not paying them became a roadblock to political power.

  3. Triumph says:

    Let’s be serious–the tax system is pretty simple to figure out. You just have to be able to read instructions.

    It only gets even semi-“complicated” when you are going crazy with your itemized deductions. And the only people who have itemized deductions the size of someone like Geithner’s are people who are rich and could easily hire an accountant if they were unable to figure it out themselves.

  4. Pete Burgess says:

    When will all you smart people finally wake up to the simple power of a consumption tax versus an income tax?

    Portion of comment in violation of site policies deleted. If you wish to buy advertising for your pet agenda, contact me for rates.

  5. RW Rogers says:

    America needs a tax code simple enough for the Treasury secretary to figure out.

    There’s every indication he had it figured out. He would have gotten away with it had it not been for the due diligence of the Obama transition team.

  6. Drew says:

    I’ve got a tax return a half inch thick that says it may be a tad more complicated than you state.

    However, I do know what is not complicated: you have to make quarterly estimated payments if you are a non-W2 income guy.

    I haven’t followed the details of this story, but it strikes me as disingenuous to say this was a mistake born of tax code complexity, or a “common mistake.” My accountant and I spend too much time on quarterly estimates for me to buy that.

  7. Franklin says:

    Drew- Geithner didn’t use an accountant, from what I’ve read.

    Triumph- I don’t think you’ve seen my taxes; they sound just about like Drew’s, and have nothing to do with itemized deductions. Yeah, I could follow directions, but it would take me literally three days to do so on my own.

  8. markm says:

    Drew- Geithner didn’t use an accountant, from what I’ve read.

    Geithner did his own returns in 00, 01, 02 and 04 I think. An accountant did the rest plus some tweaking on one of the returns.

    Complexity or not, knowing now that he submitted false paperwork and recieved tax allowances for taxes not paid is a big problem.

  9. Al Bee says:

    I don’t look at the omissions as a small thing. If a false return is filed you are lying. Look at Scooter Libby as an example.

    Maybe Obama will pardon him before he takes office.

  10. Floyd says:

    If history is any indicator,then “simplification” simply means more paperwork!

  11. Drew says:

    At the risk of too much personal info……

    I am in the investment business. I used to live in Connecticut; the investment partnership is in NY. NY takes the position that NY investment partnerships pay certain investment income to them, and sorts out net taxes with states like NJ and CT, for their residents.

    Conceptually not complex; but arithmetically tedious. But in addition, there are characterizations of income that are very important. It became apparent to me in about a nano-second that I needed a professional acct, and have done so for 12 years. The same notion occurs to just about everyone I know in the business.

    I am prepared to be corrected by the facts as they come out, but as I said previously, it strikes me – I’ll be more strident this time – as bizarre that this guy did not employ the services of a pro. This guy is a sophsiticated person; they want to make him Treasury Secy. And he has the means.

    Estimated tax payments are as common as rain in the north coast of Kauii, Hawaii. Guithner’s issues are not particulary special, and certainly not unique. Something about his behavior is not right here.

    And I don’t think it has anything to do with Guiethner’s brains or sophistication. Those are a given.