What Harry says: Just about every candidate for federal public office has promised simplification of the income tax. To many of them, this means a flat tax rate. They fail to realize that a flat rate is no simpler to calculate than graduated rates. Reason? You work with only one rate when you calculate the tax. It's stated as a certain amount plus a percentage of your income over a specified amount. And the definition of income under the flat-tax proposals is not universally agreed upon by its proponents. The real culprit is the use of the tax code to encourage or discourage certain behavior. Just look at the first two pages of the 1040. There are deductions for educator expenses, health savings accounts, health insurance, IRAs, interest on student loans, mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and credits for children, certain tuitions paid, and more. Each is there to encourage certain behavior, including charitable giving, college attendance and home ownership. What they have to do with taxation is certainly unclear, to say the least. Tax simplification can occur only when the politicians stop using it for purposes beyond raising revenue on an equitable basis.
Write Harry Gross c/o the Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19130. Harry urges all his readers to give blood: Contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-Red Cross.