OPINION

Marilinda Garcia: We need a tax code that helps everyone – not just the wealthy

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 14:  Aaron Lee holds a sign advertising income tax services for Liberty Tax Service on April 14, 2014 in San Francisco, California.  Tax preparers are helping last minute tax filers ahead of the April 15th deadline to file state and federal income taxes. The Internal Revenue Service is expecting an estimated 35 million returns in the week leading up to the deadline.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 14: Aaron Lee holds a sign advertising income tax services for Liberty Tax Service on April 14, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Tax preparers are helping last minute tax filers ahead of the April 15th deadline to file state and federal income taxes. The Internal Revenue Service is expecting an estimated 35 million returns in the week leading up to the deadline. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)  (2014 Getty Images)

According to one expert, the average American unwittingly commits three felonies every day, due to the massive size and scope of criminal laws in the United States. As shocking as that is, somehow the idea is even more concerning during tax season. After all, according to the Tax Foundation, federal tax laws and regulations have grown to over 10 million words in length.

Today, the IRS, the agency tasked with enforcing the Internal Revenue Code, boasts more agents than the FBI and CIA combined. Does that seem like a problem to anyone else?

The tax code is the way the government exercises power over the people, and enables a few to become more powerful at the expense of many others. This needs to change, and a serious overhaul of the tax code is the only way to ensure equity in economic opportunity and wage growth for all Americans.

- Marilinda Garcia

Ordinary Americans who are dutifully making an effort to properly file their taxes can only hope for the best to make the task easy. Those who can afford an accountant are fortunate to have someone who can handle the tangled web of forms, deductions and general filing process for them, but not everyone is so lucky. The tax code has grown so complex that just the instruction book for filing a 1040 form has grown to over 200 pages. Even former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner failed to pay the taxes he owed, explaining that he made “careless and unintentional mistakes.” If Tim Geithner can’t manage to file his taxes properly, odds are rough for the rest of us.

Small and medium sized businesses – known as the backbone of the American economy – have to go through even more than what individual filers have to deal with. Small businesses in this country are saddled with ever increasing paperwork and bureaucracy by an administration that has managed to roll healthcare provision into the tax code, and a takeover of the student loan industry into healthcare law. Thus, they have further complicated an already labyrinthine system that not even those who voted for it can pretend to understand.

An unnecessarily complex tax system raises barriers to opportunity for every American. Rather than allowing the spirit of American entrepreneurship to simply flourish and inspire new generations to follow their dreams of starting a business, it is as though the government is actively trying to make it more difficult.

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Hispanics in the U.S. start businesses at double the national rate. The number of entrepreneurs could be higher, but more are being held back by the unreasonable and costly demands of occupational licensing requirements and the bewildering complexity of the tax code.

For years it seems, lawmakers have promised a serious conversation on tax reform and simplification. But recently at least, Congress and the President have been unable to agree on whether the reform process should include more tax increases. It is an understatement to say that reform is badly needed, particularly for working families, small businesses, and young people just starting out with big dreams and limited resources. While it’s clear that no progress will be made this year, we can hope that the next president will be more able to work with Congress to fix this.

Our current system favors the powerful and the wealthy. It empowers individuals and entities that have the resources to hire armies of lobbyists to carve out loopholes and exceptions, and accountants and lawyers to find more loopholes and ensure compliance, or to play defense if something goes wrong. The tax code is the way the government exercises power over the people, and enables a few to become more powerful at the expense of many others. This needs to change, and a serious overhaul of the tax code is the only way to ensure equity in economic opportunity and wage growth for all Americans.

Marilinda García is the national spokeswoman for The LIBRE Initiative

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