Hey Rangel: Would You be for Simple Tax Laws Now?

Charlie Rangel faces several charges of ethics violations and dodging taxes.

A quick summary of the charges from The Washington Post article,  “Rangel is alone in punishment but not wrongdoing”

The ethics committee scolded him for taking corporate-funded trips to the Caribbean, but has not yet ruled on claims about Rangel’s fundraising, his rent-controlled apartments, the taxes on his Dominican beach place, and even his storing of a vehicle without license plates in a House garage.

Here is another summary from NBC:


Rangel claims to have done nothing wrong, that none of the acts were intentional and are simply matters of forgetfulness and sloppiness. I want to assume Rangel is telling the truth and that they were all unintentional, because it makes a really good argument for making tax rules simpler. When someone who oversees the writing of tax laws can innocently break them, it’s a strong indication the laws are too damn complicated.

From the Cato Institute article 10 Outrageous Facts About the Income Tax.

  • The U.S. “tax army” is bigger than the U.S. army in Iraq.
  • 32 million IRS penalties assessed each year.
  • In 1913 there were only 400 pages in the federal tax rules, in 2003 the number of pages had risen to 54,846.

With fifty thousand plus pages of rules, anyone–even the person who writes the rules–could unknowingly violate the rules. I would not be surprised to find out all members in congress are in violation of at least one tax code. The tax code is to large to be comprehensible by a single person.

Expecting someone to not violate the massive amount of tax codes is comparable to a bad parent telling a child to behave, but not telling the child what constitutes good behavior. The bad parent only lets the child know the rules of good behavior once they have broken them.

The other reason I hope Rangel has done nothing wrong is that maybe Rangel will learn some compassion for others caught in the web he has helped weave. When an average citizen claims their were ignorant or forgetful or sloppy with the IRS, they have to prove their innocence. If those in congress feel the sting of being a mere mortal, then someday the tax codes might include an “innocent until proven guilty” clause.

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