Perry’s flat tax: It’s so easy Tim Geithner can do it!

On a postcard, no less.

Rick Perry discloses details of his new tax plan in the WSJ. As someone who gave a persuasive speech on the glories of a flat tax to an undergraduate speech class eons ago, I’m smitten:

On Tuesday I will announce my “Cut, Balance and Grow” plan to scrap the current tax code, lower and simplify tax rates, cut spending and balance the federal budget, reform entitlements, and grow jobs and economic opportunity.

The plan starts with giving Americans a choice between a new, flat tax rate of 20% or their current income tax rate. The new flat tax preserves mortgage interest, charitable and state and local tax exemptions for families earning less than $500,000 annually, and it increases the standard deduction to $12,500 for individuals and dependents.

This simple 20% flat tax will allow Americans to file their taxes on a postcard, saving up to $483 billion in compliance costs. By eliminating the dozens of carve-outs that make the current code so incomprehensible, we will renew incentives for entrepreneurial risk-taking and investment that creates jobs, inspires Americans to work hard and forms the foundation of a strong economy. My plan also abolishes the death tax once and for all, providing needed certainty to American family farms and small businesses.

My only beef: it’s optional. Why preserve the “mind-boggling complexity” for those who would choose to use it? It keeps the IRS folks employed? Raze the building and put the few needed in a trailer somewhere in the middle of Iowa. Dismantle the bureaucracy.

Learned something new:

To help older Americans, we will eliminate the tax on Social Security benefits, boosting the incomes of 17 million current beneficiaries who see their benefits taxed if they continue to work and earn income in addition to Social Security earnings.

What is this? The government taketh away what the government giveth? I had no idea seniors paid taxes on SS benefits. Why?

Even better than a flat tax, a balanced budget by 2020:

We should start moving toward fiscal responsibility by capping federal spending at 18% of our gross domestic product, banning earmarks and future bailouts, and passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. My plan freezes federal civilian hiring and salaries until the budget is balanced. And to fix the regulatory excess of the Obama administration and its predecessors, my plan puts an immediate moratorium on pending federal regulations and provides a full audit of all regulations passed since 2008 to determine their need, impact and effect on job creation.

If I can persuade a class full of folks who don’t give a lick about politics that the current tax system is inherently unfair and a flat tax would simplify their lives in 15 minutes, Rick Perry damn well better run with this hard. Steve Forbes is in. Robbie Cooper is, too.

Unsurprising: Ol‘ Flip-Flop Mitt–who famously derided Steve Forbes and the flat tax–now says he loves him some flat tax.  Serve it up with syrup and a smile, Rick.

Read the rest.

H/t: Memeorandum

UPDATE: To borrow R.S. McCain’s shtick, since Ed Morrissey is an influential blogger of consequence and linked by the likes of Memeorandum when he pings ’em, he was included in a conference call this morning with Perry. The Q&A is interesting reading as is his conclusion:

I’m encouraged by this plan.  I think there are a couple of points to quibble over — I’m not a fan of making the flat tax optional on the personal side, as I think we have enough problems with one system, let alone two.  I agree that this issue will mainly take care of itself, though, as people flock to a system that’s simpler while still maintaining their mortgage interest deductions.  Having the exemptions for a family of four reach $50K keeps Democrats from demagoguing it as an attack on the middle class, too.  I’m most excited about flattening the corporate tax rate, where Congress creates the most mischief.

I think he may be right regarding the mass exodus of folks to the postcard plan. Hardest hit: tax preparers.


Linked by Pundette as a “Recommended Read.” Thanks!


3 Responses

  1. But why does Perry make it optional? That’s keeping the complexity in place, and therefore one could argue making it more complex. People will fill out both and submit the one with the lower tax bill. I know I would. I’m not sure I really support a one rate flat tax. I like Reagan’s approach of three rates keeping some progressivity but eliminate all deductions except mortgage and charitable contributions.

    • Manny, I thought the optional part was a bad thing, too, until I read more in-depth. Consider:

      Some conservative policy bloggers are apoplectic about the optional nature of the Perry plan. But these critics appear to be entirely ignoring the central political flaw of a mandatory flat tax: that a mandatory flat tax necessarily raises taxes on lower- and middle-income earners. The only way to rebut this political criticism is to make the flat tax optional, so that the middle class doesn’t face higher taxes. This is especially important for those who depend on the employer tax exclusion for their health benefits.

      There’s a lot more of that if you’d like it, but this is the most succinct. And it’s a great point. The article explains how this flat tax would help accelerate health care reform the way we’ve pined for it to–market driven.

      I’ve long been a flat tax proponent. It’s easy. It’s fair. And Paul Ryan among others today praised this plan’s ability to unleash the economy.

      Let’s roll!

  2. Funny… I did a report on the flat tax in my senior year economics class in high school! My teacher was a hard core Republican (although of course had to hide it) and one of our football coaches. I learned so much!

    Who knew from 1994 to 2011 that we’re still discussing a good idea but not implementing it. Shocking. 🙂

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