An engineer will tell you unless you’re competing in the Rube Goldberg Competition, it is a good idea to avoid complexity in your design.
When it comes to Indiana’s tax code, the General Assembly thinks it’s building a machine to show off up at Purdue. Lawmakers seem to think it’s a good idea to emulate the federal tax code, which is little more than a full employment bill for the nation’s professional tax preparers.
Indiana’s state tax return used to be two pages with two pages of instructions. You pretty much transferred your adjusted gross income tax from the federal return, multiplied by .034 and that was it. Well, since the 1980s you had to make a similar calculation for your county option income tax, too.
Not anymore. Now the return runs 10 pages with schedules and there are 63 pages of instructions thanks to credits and deductions and other gobbledygook inserted over the years. While everyone professes to believe in the low-rate, broad-base tax maxim, it’s not the case in practice.
This leads me to Gov. Mike Pence’s Tax Competitiveness and Simplification Conference on June 24 at the Indiana Government Center. I just hope it rains that day because I’m willingly going to spend the entire Tuesday in a stuffy auditorium because the organizers have taken their charge seriously.
The Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute is privileged to join a lineup of speakers and panelists that includes local experts like Purdue’s Larry DeBoer, IU’s John Mikesell and Ball State’s Mike Hicks. National experts include the former executive director of the Federation of Tax Administrators and a former commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.
My only beef with the non-academic parts of the lineup is that it is heavy with conservative thinking. It would have been nice to see a few Democrats among the speakers. I was assured invitations were made to those who represent progressive viewpoints, but apparently none was accepted.
It just makes it incumbent on me and all the others to remind the speakers and the attendees we’re looking for good ideas, and those aren’t limited to either side of the aisle. Organizers, including key personnel from the Indiana Department of Revenue, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Local Government Finance, think there are other ways to express diversity during the day — philosophically.
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