Tax Day should be a non-event

By: By Archie Parnell - Contributing Columnist

Tax Day should be a non-event for millions of Americans. I’m a tax nerd and I’m running for Congress. Here’s my plan.

April 15 is a day most Americans dread. But, for millions of hardworking taxpayers, the completion of tax returns is actually unnecessary. The government maintains records showing how much tax has been withheld from their paychecks. Their income is on file. The amount of tax they owe or tax to be refunded is on file, too. Yet tens of millions of hours are wasted with millions of Americans filing their tax returns with information the government already has. Under a better and simpler system, most taxpayers would receive a draft completed tax return from the IRS, ready to look over, sign, and return. Other countries like Japan already do this and there’s no reason that the United States can’t also.

Yes, I’m a tax expert — and I’m running for United States Congress to put that knowledge to work for every taxpayer. I’m sometimes asked, what on earth inspires a kid to be a tax attorney? Well, ingrained in my memory from my youth is the experience of a farmer, our neighbor, arriving at the kitchen door on the verge of panic asking my mother help him with his taxes. My mother had some accounting training and often assisted folks in our Sumter community with their taxes. I saw, through her example, that doing tax work is a way to help people.

So after law school, I tried tax cases at the Department of Justice and worked to improve tax policy as a Democratic staff member for the House Ways and Means Committee. Later, I left the public sector for the private sector and spent several decades helping large companies comply with a complex web of tax laws in the United States and abroad. I was a stickler to the existing tax rules (and, boy, some of those rules are strange). My colleagues called me “the policeman.”

My private sector experience showed me that — breaking news! — the US tax system has major flaws. And one reason I’m running for Congress is to fix it. Giant American corporations play by a different set of rules than most people. They are able to get away with things like stashing trillions of dollars overseas tax havens. I strongly believe we need to return that money home — and invest that money in infrastructure, public education, and a tax cut for working families. This is one case where a change in policy could cause a sonic boom of change. I know big companies don’t need another tax break, but you and your family might.

So these are a couple of the concrete things I’m proposing in my race for Congress — simplifying taxes for taxpayers with one source of income, and forcing big U.S. corporations to bring home the money they stash overseas to skirt the tax law. That is our money, and everyone must be paying their fair share.

And if President Donald Trump is serious about tax reform, he MUST release his tax returns. Since I entered the tax field straight out of law school in 1974, all presidents have released their tax returns. The two summary pages of Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return that were released to the press revealed that most of the taxes he paid were Alternative Minimum Tax, a supplemental tax imposed on individuals and corporations that have exemptions or special circumstances allowing for lower payments of standard income tax. It is no coincidence that Trump wants to abolish the Alternative Minimum Tax, without which Trump’s tax rate would have been just 3% in 2005! We have no idea where Trump’s income came from nor any insight into his business relationships. I will lead the fight on Capitol Hill to reveal Trump’s complete tax returns. As we saw by the tens of thousands of people who participated in Tax Day Marches across the United States — and I was proud to be among them — the American people demand and deserve to know.

Archie Parnell is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the US House of Representatives Fifth District Seat.

By Archie Parnell

Contributing Columnist