Science fiction writer David Brin (known for the Uplift Universe, if you're into that sort of thing), has proposed a way to simplify the notoriously complex and loophole-filled U.S. tax code while attempting to not infuriate anyone with the changes. Will it happen? Probably not. But is it a simple, clean, valid idea that someone in charge should seriously consider? Yep.
Brin's proposal aims to replace the document President Obama once referred to as a "10,000-page monstrosity" with a mathematical model that can find the simplest "no losers" code. The idea is to create software that can input a round of simplifications and then output a spreadsheet of how those simplifications would affect, say, a hundred different groups, from small business owners to students to corporations. You'd give it some boundaries to ensure that none of those groups take a hit of more than, say, 5% (which sounds kind of high to me, but it's the idea that counts), and keep feeding it simplifications until you arrive at the simplest code that doesn't screw anyone.
This isn't a "how to fix the tax code" or "how to block loopholes" or "how to make Goldman Sachs pay more than 1% in taxes." It's just designed to keep the bottom line of taxes as close to what they are now as possible while eliminating as much verbiage, repetition, and unnecessary language as possible. It might require a balancing act--if one round of simplifications screws one group, the next round might have to balance that out.
Brin isn't convinced anyone will actually attempt this, though he says "some people who know about such things" say it's not only possible but already exists in bits and pieces--various government agencies use programs like this to test specific inputs and outputs. But it certainly seems like something we should try.
you know what really stood out to me in this article? "science fiction author..."
Popsci please don't ever write about things such as tax laws or government reform without something more informed to say.
@mrwright85 I disagree. This is an idea that I had never contemplated before and this article has gotten me interested. Though I am in no position to affect any sort of influence on the US tax system, who knows who might read this that is. Thanks PopSci for spreading good ideas.
Um, I think some people have forgotten that science fiction writers have so far been pretty good indicators of what is coming. For a while, too. I'm not just talking the last twenty years or so, either. I mean Jules Freakin' Verne. Those who can imagine the future, and show it to others, have far greater influence than those who simply govern the present.
And personally, even if there isn't much more than, "Hey, somebody thought of something cool," I like to read it. That's why I'm here.
Thank you, PopSci. Thank you very much.
just tax every person and business and take 25% of their earnings period. nothing else. then let the federal government disperse it to the states. No loopholes there.
Now all we need is another science fiction author to propose a way to replace self-serving, moron politicians.
You know, the sales tax is the most equal, direct way of taxing people. And for the rich, who spend millions on rich toys, they will be tax more with no loop holes. The poor and needy can have assistance is needed. The rest of us will all pay our fair share and be done with it. Oh and finally, any politician, senator, congressman, judge, government official, who spends money other that what it was design for or spend more than they receive, will go to jail, PERIOD! Ok, I just finish the new tax system, time for lunch.
If our whole tax system was base on sales tax, we then start collecting more tax from all the illegal aliens. Illegal aliens use fake ID's, fake SS# and do not pay taxes. But they do have daily expenses of life and every time they buy something, they be hit with a sales tax. Suddenly all the illegal aliens would be paying their fair share of taxes. Illegal aliens use and exploit all the benefits of the USA infrastructure, but pay no taxes to support. With them paying more sales tax, suddenly they be supporting the USA infrastructure.
Actually the best way is for a flat tax, taxes collected are on average just 19% due to tax loop holes and the fact that 45% of the people in the U.S do not pay income tax. If we lower to 19% and got rid of loopholes, there would be enough for the Government projects, if you really want them.
The problem with this article is that if you actually understand anything about taxes and how they are administered in this country, you would realize that this author has completed waste your time. What this SciFi writer has proposed is something that is already done in several departments of the government that affect the budget and taxes. The algorithm suggested would not even change the current tax code, it just turns complex verbiage into complex code, with simpler sentences. It wouldn't even eliminate the IRS because you would still need a huge work force to administer our unnecessarily complicated taxes.
I completely agree with you on the foresight of some SciFi writers, (Jules Verne was a VERY good example). However PopSci should be better journalists and not report on junk such as this.
Not sure what article some of you were reading, but what I read was about simplifying the tax code, NOT changing who pays how much in taxes.
A only sales tax system is a flat tax.
Of course the joy and fun of making something complicated is then we need to hire lawyers, accountants and CPA's to do our taxes. Our elected officials need it to be complicated and confusing, so they can do their song and dance for us and seem important. It would be just too simplistic and crazy to have a tax system and government that everyone easily understands..... A simple tax system would give more power to the people and that would undermine our whole government elected officials.... (I am being sarcastic here, just so you know.)
Well, sales tax is not a flat tax. It is a burned more unfairly a burden to the poor and middle classes.
A Federal flat tax would have some steps in it to help level the playing field. One example is 0% below $25K with a scale that goes up to 100% of tax rate at about $150K/year. A family that made $25K/year would pay no tax under a flat tax but they would still have to pay every bit of what a rich person pays in sales taxes.
It would be simple and easy and reduce the IRS's payroll by a few thousand. Well, we can see why that will never happen.
Well, a couple of issues
1. The sci fi author doesn't actually know how this could be done, he just thinks it could be.
2. The pols really don't want a simple code. Tax laws are writtten after long sessions of deal making. This is an ongoing process that they don't want scrutinized. Tax rules are also constantly changing as the pols try to influence our behavior((e.g. get married) or react to events (e.g. Katrina).The objectives are far from clear.
If taxes were only used to fairly extract money from citizens to pay for reasonable government expenses, they could be simple.
When live is reasonable and predictable there is stability in life. Our economy is day by day on the edge of be unstable, because of gigantic amount of debt and confusing tax laws and the manner of how our money is spent, finalize by all our politician failing to have a back bone and come up with a reasonable plan and stick to it. Our politicians are too smart as lawyers. They argue with great expertise and through mud at each other to cloud all issues. NONE of them have a back bone, a plan, a direction and the ability to see it through. I will call them all clearly to what they are, cowards to the positions they hold. While they enjoy the prestige and benefits and MONEY they reap, they do nothing for the rest of the people they represent.
When life is reasonable and predictable, there is stability in life. Our economy is day by day on the edge of be unstable, because of gigantic amount of debt and confusing tax laws and the manner of how our money is spent, finalize by all our politician failing to have a back bone and come up with a reasonable plan and stick to it. Our politicians are too smart as lawyers. They argue with great expertise and through mud at each other to cloud all issues. NONE of them have a back bone, a plan, a direction and the ability to see it through. I will call them ALL clearly to what they are, COWARDS, to the positions they hold. While they enjoy the prestige and benefits and MONEY they reap, they do nothing for the rest of the people they represent. I believe in the constitution. I do not believe in our leaders of the last 30 plus years. All of them are too tempted by power and greed and self interest.
I want anything other than the current system and this idea bases everything on the current system.
The reason I (and almost everyone I know) supports the idea of a Flat tax or a Fair tax is because the rich and the corporations pay almost ZERO taxes anyway, so what's the difference?
At least if it's simple, we'll know they're paying their taxes at the cash register!