- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2016

House Republicans called for a “fairer” and “flatter” tax code Friday, saying Americans should be split into fewer income brackets and file their returns on something as simple as a postcard.

Their tax proposal, the sixth and final piece of the GOP’s election-year agenda, would slash rates for individuals and corporations, streamline deductions for parents and clarify benefits tied to paying for college.

It would bolster incentives for charitable giving, decrease the tax burden on American-made products and reform the IRS.

“We want a tax code that works for taxpayers, not for tax collectors,” said Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican.

The GOP plan would lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and cap the individual rate at 33 percent, down from 39.6 percent. It also would repeal the estate tax — or “death tax” in GOP parlance — on the grounds it robs families of the nest egg that farmers and others have built for their heirs.

The six-part Republican agenda is designed to unify the party, so it left out areas of disagreements within the party, such as immigration and trade reforms — two areas where Mr. Ryan clashes with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“We have a moral duty and obligation to offer a better way,” said Mr. Ryan, who earlier this week promoted a long-awaited replacement to Obamacare.

Mr. Ryan formally unveiled the tax proposal alongside Rep. Kevin Brady, Texas Republican and chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, in a ceremonial room of the Capitol.

Mr. Brady said byzantine rules on the book are holding U.S. companies back in a competitive global market.

“The problem is the costly complex and unfair tax code that Washington imposes on hardworking taxpayers,” he said.

Republicans said their overhaul would be revenue-neutral and not pad budget deficits, based on their belief that tax cuts will bolster economic growth.

House Democrats said the plan would more likely erode protections for the middle class.

“Once again, Republicans are planning to hand massive tax giveaways to millionaires and billionaires on the backs of hard-working American families,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

“Republicans’ Wrong Way tax agenda would ransack our investments in jobs, infrastructure, education and the future of our nation. It would explode the deficit and undermine our efforts to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.”

The GOP plan calls for an overhaul of the IRS in the wake of a political targeting scandal that singled out nonprofit conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

Republicans say the agency should “put taxpayers first” by restructuring itself into three branches — one for individuals and families, another for business and one that resolves disputes quickly, like a small-claims court.

It also says the IRS commissioner should be subject to term limits.

House Republicans took the first steps toward impeaching IRS Commissioner John Koskinen last week, with the Oversight Committee voting to censure him for thwarting its investigation into tea party targeting.

It is the first step in a long process that’s unlikely to result in Mr. Koskinen’s ouster, but could dent his reputation as a straight-shooting turnaround artist.

The accusations stem from the IRS’s failure to discover and preserve former senior executive Lois G. Lerner’s emails after she was implicated in the targeting scandal. He did not report her computer hard drive crash until months after it was known to his staff, and he failed to preserve backup tapes that stored those emails — even though he testified that he had done everything possible to track down the messages.

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