​Taming​ ​the​ ​Tax​ ​Code - Brendan Cody, GWU student and Impact Investing Intern

Tax​ ​reform​ ​will​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​major​ ​issue​ ​over​ ​the​ ​next​ ​several​ ​months. Both​ ​Congress​ ​and
President​ ​Trump​ ​have​ ​expressed​ ​a​ ​strong​ ​interest​ ​in​ ​reform.​ ​

A ​panel​ at George Washington University titled ​“A​ ​General​ ​Perspective on​ ​Taming​ ​the​ ​Tax​ ​Code:​ ​What​ ​Yesterday’s​ ​Reformers​ ​Can​ ​Teach​ ​Today’s​ ​Reformers”​ ​provided great​ ​insight​ ​into​ ​the​ ​methods​ ​and​ ​issues​ ​of​ ​reform​ ​from​ ​the​ ​perspective​ ​of​ ​the​ ​House​ ​Ways​ ​and Means​ ​Committee.

​Bill​ ​Archer(R-TX)​ ​and Charlie​ ​Rangel(D-NY)​ ​are​ ​both​ ​former​ ​committee​ ​chairmen​ ​and ​were​ ​members​ ​of​ ​​Ways and Means in 1986 when​ ​the​ ​tax​ ​code​ ​was​ ​last​ ​reformed​.​

​Rangel​ ​emphasized​ ​the​ ​importance​ ​of​ ​the​ ​president in​ ​getting​ ​tax​ ​reform,​ ​specifically noting ​that the​ ​President’s​ ​ability​ ​to​ ​inspire​ ​confidence​ ​among​ ​the​ ​public​ ​and​ ​the Congress​ ​can​ ​be​ ​decisive​ ​in​ ​the​ ​fate​ ​of​ ​a​ ​bill.​ ​Archer​ ​agreed​ ​with​ ​this​ ​sentiment, noting that​ ​President​ ​Reagan​ ​played​ ​a​ ​vital​ ​role​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Tax​ ​Reform​ ​Act​ ​of​ ​1986​ ​by​ ​taking​ ​the​ ​issue​ ​to​ ​the public,​ ​while​ ​President​ ​Obama​ ​did​ ​not​ ​campaign​ ​for​ ​tax​ ​reform.​ ​

While both Rangel​ ​and​ ​Archer​ ​agreed​ ​on the​ ​role​ ​of​ ​the​ ​president,​ ​they ​disagreed​ ​on​ ​the​ ​intended​ ​outcome​ ​of​ ​reform.​ ​When​ ​Mr.​ ​Archer expressed​ ​his​ ​disdain​ ​for​ ​the​ ​current​ ​tax​ ​code​ ​that​ ​allows​ ​47%​ ​of​ ​people​ ​to​ ​not​ ​pay​ ​any​ ​income taxes,​ ​Mr.​ ​Rangel​ ​argued​ ​to​ ​“Never​ ​use​ ​the​ ​tax​ ​code​ ​for​ ​social​ ​policy.”​ ​Mr. Rangel's  ​is​ ​a​ ​potent​ ​message as​ ​the​ ​debate​ ​surrounding​ ​reform​ ​in​ ​the​ ​coming​ ​year​ ​will​ ​almost​ ​certainly​ ​involve​ ​discussions​ ​of social​ ​policy​ ​masquerading​ ​as​ ​tax​ ​policy.

In​ ​addition​ ​to​ ​former​ ​Chairman​ ​Bill​ ​Archer​ ​and​ ​Charlie​ ​Rangel,​ ​the​ ​panel​ ​featured current​ ​Ways​ ​and​ ​Means​ ​Committee​ ​chairman​ ​Kevin​ ​Brady (R-TX)​ ​and​ ​ranking​ ​member​ ​Richard Neal (D-MA).​ ​Chairman​ ​Brady​ sated that he ​understands​ ​the​ ​tremendous​ ​challenges​ ​reform presents,​ ​but​ ​also noted​ ​that​ ​political​ ​polarization​ ​exacerbated​ ​by​ ​the​ ​media​ ​climate​ ​and​ ​instant​ ​access​ ​to information, factual​ ​or​ ​not,​ ​will​ ​add​ ​to​ ​the​ ​problems​ ​of​ ​passing​ ​complex​ ​legislation.​ ​Additionally, Brady​ ​believes​ ​that​ ​this​ ​bill​ ​must​ ​be​ ​farther-reaching​ ​than​ ​the​ ​1986​ ​reform, since that  ​only​ ​involved changes​ ​to​ ​​ ​the​ ​tax​ ​rates,​ ​but​ ​that​ ​the​ ​BAT,​ ​simplification​ ​of​ ​the​ ​code​ ​and​ ​other​ ​policies​ ​were equally​ ​important.​ ​

Ranking Member ​Neal​ ​believes​ ​​tax​ ​reform​ ​could​ ​be​ ​hindered​ ​by Congresspersons​ ​who​ ​are​ ​more​ ​interested​ ​in​ ​being​ ​crusaders​ ​than​ ​legislators​ ​and​ ​who​ ​will​ ​take​ ​one line​ ​of​ ​the​ ​bill​ ​they​ ​disagree​ ​with​ ​to​ ​denounce​ ​the​ ​entirety​ ​of​ ​the​ ​legislation.

All​ ​four​ ​panelists​ ​agreed​ ​on​ ​the​ ​importance​ ​of​ ​bipartisan​ ​legislation.​ ​The​ ​bipartisan nature​ ​of​ ​the​ ​1986​ ​reform​ ​helped​ ​its​ ​passage​ ​and​ ​staying​ ​power​ ​as​ ​any​ ​legislation​ ​passed​ ​by​ ​one party​ ​would​ ​have​ ​been​ ​immediately​ ​repealed​ ​when​ ​the​ ​opposition​ ​regained​ ​power.​ ​Mr.​ ​Rangel argued​ ​that​ ​while ​details​ ​may​ ​change​ ​with​ ​the​ ​political​ ​climate,​ ​the​ ​importance​ ​of​ ​trust​ ​will always​ ​remain.  


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