Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rudy’s gone and now I’m really depressed.

It’s winter, you see, a rough time for the self-employed. It’s rough because our 1099s — official records of how much our clients paid us the prior year — arrive in the mail.

My 1099s always add up to more than I thought they would — my taxes will be higher than I expected, and that depresses me.

And because I’ll have to organize hundreds of receipts that I keep in a giant box — a task that will take countless hours — I get even more depressed.

But Rudolph Giuliani was going to save me from some of those woes. Like all the Republican candidates, Rudy was going to extend George W. Bush’s tax cuts. He was going to lower the capital-gains tax from 15 to 10 percent and the corporate-tax from 35 to 25 percent. His ideas would have unleashed investment and economic growth, as lower taxes always do.

But the best part of the Rudy plan had a direct impact on me: It would have given me the option to keep filing returns under our current nightmarish tax code or voluntarily switch to Rudy’s simplified tax plan. Rudy’s voluntary plan had three tax brackets of 10, 15 and 30 percent, with basic deductions (health insurance, mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local income taxes and a $3,500 personal exemption). So simple, it required only one piece of paper. An English major could complete it. But Rudy is gone and his simplified tax plan is gone with him.

It’s true all the Republican candidates have tax-reform ideas. According to the Tax Foundation, Ron Paul wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and slash spending.

Mike Huckabee wants to abolish the IRS, too, and replace the income tax with a national sales tax — an idea sensible enough that it will never happen as long as we have a Congress. But Messrs. Paul and Huckabee have about as much chance of winning the Republican nomination as Teddy Kennedy.

That leaves us with John McCain. He says he’ll keep George W. Bush’s tax cuts in place and simplify tax filing, too, but hasn’t said how.

But at least Mr. McCain gives lip service to simplification. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama don’t even do that. They would likely make things worse.

Hillary promises to raise taxes right out of the gate — she’ll repeal Mr. Bush’s tax cuts on folks making more than $250,000. She has lots of other ideas, but none that will simplify our taxes.

Mr. Obama will repeal Mr. Bush’s tax cuts, too — on the top 1 percent of income earners. He offers one idea to making filing easier, and it’s a doozie. He’ll have the IRS use your employer-provided financial information to “pre-populate” your tax-return form for you. It should take you only 5 minutes to complete the rest of your return, he promises.

Don’t worry about an IRS mistake — that you owe them a couple million, for instance. I’m sure you’ll be able to clear it up with only minimal jail time.

That’s why I’ve been depressed since Rudy dropped out of the presidential race. If only he had a better strategy in the primaries, maybe he could have made it to the White House. I had visions of him cleaning up our burdensome tax code the way he did Times Square. It’s all pointless now.

Sure, I know Rudy’s tax plan wasn’t as simple as it appeared — I know I would still have to organize my business receipts and deductions, which will still take me hours. But at least he was moving in the right direction.

Now he’s gone. Now I’m worried that a Democrat will win the presidency and make my filing woes even worse.

Thanks for nothing, Rudy.


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