- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The government has gotten better about transparency in spending, with a fairly comprehensive online database detailing most contracts, grants and loans.

But things are far worse when it comes to letting the public see all the tax breaks that siphon money from the federal treasury — yet are generally shielded from public view, says Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican.

Mr. Flake on Tuesday announced legislation to try to change that and to have the government post the type, dollar-amount and recipients of tax credits.

The tax code is littered with special breaks, which are so similar to spending that they are called “tax expenditures” in Washington circles. They cost the government some $1.23 trillion a year, Mr. Flake said.

He said knowing who’s getting what is particularly important as Congress debates a massive tax code overhaul, and as Republicans face pushback from industries desperate to keep their breaks intact.

“Congress cannot reform the tax code if we do not even know what loopholes there are, the cost of each, and who they are benefiting,” Mr. Flake said. “Every tax give-away to one special interest represents a tax hike for everyone else, which Congress should be prepared to justify.”

He said his new database would not require disclosure of tax breaks claimed by individuals.

The latest report by the Treasury Department, released this month, lists 167 different tax expenditures, ranging from the biggies such as the ability to deduct home mortgage interest to small ones such as special tax treatment for benefits claimed by disabled coal miners.

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