Category Archives: Tax Reform

The Reality TV Tax Reform Games of 2014

This is a little bit of a departure from what I usually write, but thought I would throw it out there anyway

Americans are divided on many issues, but find common ground in the universal belief that the current U.S. tax policy is utterly dysfunctional and desperately needs to be simplified. Since our leaders on Capitol Hill have repeatedly failed to make any significant improvement to the tax system, I would like to propose a radical idea for reforming the U.S. Tax Code, which I am calling the Reality TV Tax Reform Games Act of 2014. My hope is that the following proposed legislation will encourage Congress to demolish our current tax system and start over.

My proposal is that one week before the annual tax deadline on April 15, all 535 members of Congress, the President of the United States, and the nine members of the Supreme Court shall meet in executive session in the House Chambers for the sole purpose of personally completing their tax returns on live television in front of the American people. (While the games are under way the Vice-President shall oversee the various functions of government in a “secure location”.)

All members will be required to bring hard copies of their tax records, and only tax-related documents shall be allowed in the room. Cell phones, Blackberries, laptops, tablets, hip flasks and personal sidearms must be checked at the door. The honorable members will be supplied with the necessary paper tax forms and there will be one copy of the Internal Revenue Code available in the House chamber (there is room for only one copy because at 73,954 pages the tax code is five times larger than the 22-volume World Book Encyclopedia). In addition, the Commissioner of the IRS will be on hand to help members with their personal tax questions. However, no other tax help will be available. No accountants. No tax preparation software. No tax lawyers. No assistance whatsoever other than the chief of the IRS and the elected officials who are responsible for the debacle that is the tax system. (Technically the members of the Supreme Court aren't elected officials, but they do rule on important tax questions, and have won the right to experience the tax system up close and personal.)

The American people deserve the opportunity to watch their elected officials attempt to navigate through a Byzantine maze of federal tax regulations. Therefore, every moment of the proceedings will be televised 24 hours per day until each and every participant has filed their taxes. Revenue from sale of the broadcast rights will be earmarked to reduce the national debt. The Treasury will also receive a percentage of the revenue from online gambling, with a nearly endless variety of possible wagers. “Will the members of the Senate Finance Committee finish their taxes before the members of the House Ways and Means Committee?” “Republicans before Democrats?” “Women before men?” To discourage cheating, participants who wish to amend their return after the games conclude will be required to post their complete tax return on all of the major social networks.

I imagine that the Tax Reform Games will attract competing bids from several major television networks, because who doesn't like to watch public officials squirm on camera. Color commentary will be provided by political pundits and professional play-by-play announcers, with additional critiques by snarky figure skating judges. Experienced reality television producers will have no problem refining the rules of the game for the enjoyment of the American public, although there will be no lack of drama once the lawmakers wade into the morass of the tax system. Cameras will capture the shaking hands, the panic attacks, the flop sweats, the looks of utter confusion and despair. As tempers fray there will no doubt be arguments breaking out on the floor over who was responsible for particularly egregious tax rules and bizarre loopholes.

During the Reality TV Tax Games, the participants will be forbidden all contact with lobbyists, aides, pollsters and the media. Perhaps most uncomfortable for the participants, all fund-raising activities must cease while the tax reform games are underway. To ensure compliance, the National Security Agency will monitor all communications emanating from Capitol Hill and campaign headquarters (which will cost taxpayers nothing as they apparently do that already).

Bathroom breaks will of course be allowed, but with a few exceptions, no one will be allowed to leave the chamber until the Reality TV Tax Games are successfully concluded. Folding cots will be provided, along with military-issue MREs and bottled water. In order to ensure a swift resolution to the tax games, no bathing or laundry facilities will be provided to the participants.

Once a day during the games the public will vote for the participant who submits the most effective tax reform idea. This winner will be allowed to leave upon completion of his or her tax return. Bored lawmakers who finish early shall also be encouraged to show off their personal talents in an “American Idol” style competition. Potential categories could include dancing away from the truth, singing to the grand jury, the art of the filibuster, and the dramatic reading of books written for preschoolers. Viewers will have the opportunity to vote on other factors as well, including most prolific perspiration, most visible discomfort, most vitriolic rant, and most creative cursing.

The games will end when every participant has filed with the IRS. Imagine the discomfort of that last hapless Congressman or Senator who is struggling to calculate his Section 179 depreciation while enduring glares from the gallery of hungry, cranky, and sleep-deprived legislators. In compensation for the humiliation, the Last Loser shall receive an automatic appointment to either the House Ways and Means committee or the Senate Finance Committee, in hopes that a public shaming will help motivate him to reform the tax code.

So if you are one of the tens of millions of Americans who have lost patience with our country's totally dysfunctional tax system, I urge you to contact your Senator or Representative today and urge them to co-sponsor the Reality TV Tax Reform Act of 2014, if for no other reason than to watch them turn pale and clammy.