- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2022

President Biden used Monday’s tax-filing deadline to promote his social welfare agenda while lobbing attacks at Senate Republicans, saying his tax plan would look out for the middle class while Senate Republicans promote a plan that would impose income taxes on those who currently pay none.

Mr. Biden is making hay with an “11-point” plan released by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who leads the Senate campaign arm. The plan said all persons should pay some income tax to “have skin in the game” and that all legislation should sunset after five years, an idea that would ostensibly apply to Medicare and Social Security.

“The president is fighting for tax cuts for the middle class and to ensure that the super wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share, while congressional Republicans, led by Senator Scott, are proposing big tax increases on middle-class families,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

Mr. Biden wants to impose a 20% minimum tax on households worth more than $100 million. The tax would apply to unrealized investment income that currently is untaxed. He also wants to repeal part of the 2017 GOP tax overhaul by restoring the top tax rate for those earning over $400,000.

The White House said the richest Americans “often pay no tax whatsoever or very little tax on their income and too often escape paying income tax forever.”

Mr. Biden is cracking down on corporations and the wealthy while he tries to pay for a big-spending “Build Back Better” plan. It’s run into opposition from centrist Democrats in Congress, forcing him to try and pass sections of the plan and ensure that popular aspects of the tax code, including a child tax credit and supersized Obamacare subsidies, are extended.

“Families are benefitting from these tax cuts right now as they file their taxes on this Tax Day. The president is proposing extending that tax relief because he believes that middle-class families already pay enough in taxes,” the White House said.

In the meantime, Democrats see Mr. Scott’s plan as a gift ahead of the GOP ahead of a difficult midterm season. They argue the plan shows the GOP is out of touch with working Americans, reviving an old playbook after former President Donald Trump tried to chip away at that image of Republicans with populist moves.

The Scott plan created a wedge between Republicans in recent weeks.

“We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people, and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters last month. “That will not be part of a Republican Senate majority agenda.”

Yet others, including the Heritage Foundation, have supported plans to broaden the base of taxpayers, and Mr. Scott defended the plan in a Wall Street Journal column, saying he “struck a nerve” in Washington because lawmakers do not like to tell the truth about the financial sustainability of government programs.

“Part of the deception is achieved by disconnecting so many Americans from taxation,” he wrote. “It’s a genius political move. And it is bankrupting us.”

The Republican National Committee focused its fire on the Biden administration, pointing to new taxes in his budget plan — including the repeal of credits for oil and gas companies — and estimated the “hidden tax of inflation” cost families an additional $3,500 in 2021 and will cost families an extra $5,200 this year.

“Biden and Democrats’ reckless spending has crushed American families, shuttered small businesses, and skyrocketed costs for everything from gas to groceries, yet Biden wants to impose $2.5 trillion in new taxes,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said.

While politicians fought over taxes, the IRS said Monday it doesn’t have the tools to administer the code as written.

It is pleading with Congress for $80 billion in new funding over 10 years, saying it is running behind this year and needs long-term support to make things easier for itself and American taxpayers.

“Today’s deadline is an inflection point in what has been the agency’s most challenging filing season in recent history,” Natasha Sarin, counselor for tax policy and implementation, said in a news release. “This is the byproduct of chronic underfunding that has starved the IRS of the tools it needs to serve the American people, coupled with a historic pandemic that introduced new responsibilities alongside mammoth challenges.”

She said the funding would make tax-filing simpler, pointing to Estonians who often do their taxes in five minutes and Swedes who file by replying “yes” to a text message.

The average American takes 13 hours to file, she said, and money from Congress would help them move away from “a tax system where ripped paper returns are literally pieced together with scotch tape.”

“The result will be a much smoother experience for the American taxpayer, where filing is easier, and processing is automated,” she said. “It will be a fairer and more equitable tax system, with the agency able to collect from top-earning evaders who currently skirt their responsibilities. And it will mean an IRS that is able to serve the American people the way that it wants to, and the way that they deserve.”

The American Taxpayers Union said the IRS only has itself to blame for burdensome compliance rules and other tripwires that cost Americans nearly $340 billion and 6.5 billion hours during filing season. It said backlogs, poor customer service and revisions to the Qualified Business Income Deduction made this year particularly hard for filers.

“The opportunity cost of the billions of hours spent on taxes is equivalent to $249 billion in labor — valuable time that could have been devoted to more leisurely pursuits or more productive but was instead lost to tax code compliance,”  the group said. “Add to that the $90 billion in estimated out-of-pocket costs taxpayers spent on software, professional preparation services, or other filing expenses, and the total economic value of the compliance burden imposed by the tax code can be calculated at $339 billion.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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