Pawlenty: Want to simplify the tax code? Make pols do their own taxes

WASHINGTON — Tim Pawlenty has a simple solution for spurring Congress to reform the tax code: Make ’em do their own, without help.

“No help of an accountant, a lawyer or a tax specialist,” the presidential aspirant and former governor told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. “And if they can’t do it, we give them a certification they can go get some help. But I’d like every one of those individuals to have to do their own taxes every year and live with the mindless burdens we put on the American people.”

Pawlenty’s idea would represent a sea change on Capitol Hill, where accountants are de rigueur. An unscientific survey by The Hill just before tax day last year showed just one of 28 lawmakers surveyed did their own taxes. Most, including those who sit on committees responsible for writing the tax code, say they can’t because it’s too complicated. The only one who said he did? Wyoming GOP Sen. Mike Enzi, a former accountant.

In fact, just eight percent of Americans filled out their own tax forms without the help of an accountant or tax prep software in 2009, according to the IRS.

What about you? Do you think Pawlenty has a point? Why do you fill out your taxes the way you do?

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by David DeCoux on 01/11/2011 - 11:53 am.

    “Those who write laws, can’t recite them. And those who start wars, never fight them” ~ Franti.

    If this “make them do their own taxes” philosophy were applied across the board then we’d have far fewer wars, bad laws, and who knows what else…

    Sadly “do as I say,not as I do” is modus operandi for our elected officials.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/11/2011 - 12:21 pm.

    Pawlenty has a point, but I’m not sure where.
    He doesn’t say whether he’s ever done his own taxes.
    The main reason for the complexity of the tax code is all the exemptions put in for special interest lobbyists. Pawlenty was certainly an active participant in that process.
    And yes, I do my own taxes! I find the most complex parts are the capital gains section and itemized deductions; both attributable to special interest lobbying. It would be much simpler of ALL income was in the same category (double taxation is a boojum).
    Two reasons why I do it myself:
    The first is of course economic.
    The second is that it gives me a better understanding of my income and taxation situation than I would get from a second hand explanation by a financial adviser.

  3. Submitted by Joanne Kube-Harderwijk on 01/11/2011 - 12:50 pm.

    Forty years ago when I was in 9th grade Civics, for an assignment we had to fill out a federal tax form with a set of data. I was the only one in our teachers entire set of classes to get it right.
    For many years I did our personal taxes, then, when we had some depreciation, which I did not fully understand, we started going to an accountant. Then TurboTax came along and I could again do them considerably cheaper than an accountant.
    The tax system is far too complecated to expect anyone to do it themselves unless they have nothing to declare. Even then, you can’t be sure you are doing it right.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/11/2011 - 02:46 pm.

    As I recall, Consumer Reports once did a study comparing tax preparation services, and none of them got it right. So they had an IRS office do it, and they made errors too.
    Note that the IRS states explicitly that if they fill out your form for you, they do not guarantee its correctness.
    So how do we get Congress to vote against the special interests that buy them? How do they raise the money necessary to be elected otherwise?

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