Thursday, August 13, 2015

Must We Really Save H&R Block?

I'm an inveterate stationary bike-rider.  Each weekday I roll out of bed and stagger down to the basement to work out, and a lot of that is done on the bicycle, naturally with the TV on.  Eight miles ain't much, but it's a half-hour.

The other day Donald Trump was on Fox and Friends, and I watched the whole interview -- sometimes watching The Donald is like watching a train wreck, sometimes a revelation, but it's always compelling TV.  Donald Trump is not rhythmic gymnastics.

In the course of the interview, he approached a question about where he would want to go with tax structures, if he were to be president.  Now, I can summarize what he said pretty readily -- he was for simplification in a big way, whether based on the currently-discussed "fair tax" or "flat tax" or whatever; the point was that he thought the current system to be useless.

As he explained his position, he made the typical Trump verbal gesture flair, in this case by saying that he'd like to "put H&R Block out of business."  I have actually not seen anyone comment on that -- still waiting for some lefty columnist to go on about his expanding the unemployment rate by doing that -- but it sure made me think.

I hate to admit the fact that I know a lot of really nice people who are accountants, or who do taxes, but I do, and they're nice enough folks.  I'm sure if you asked them, they would far rather be doing accounting than tax, and The Donald simply wants to help them keep books rather than do 1040s and 1120s all spring.

But I digress, a little.

As I seriously thought through the whole thing, I let my mind wander, as I often do when my lower half is trying to keep up a 15 mph pace without the rest of me going anywhere.  And I started to formulate a question based on what Trump had said in his H&R Block comment.

A few days ago, I wrote about demand for goods and services being what made a business necessary, whether a grocery or a tire store or a physician's office.  In the course of life, demand creates need, and needs seek to be filled.  Demand is best created because of the need of people and business; it is least productive for society as a whole when it is government creating the need, because government saps its fuel from the wallets of the public.

But government created a separate kind of demand when it let the income tax code metastasize into the out-of-control, stinking tumor it is today.  Why?  Because through the byzantine law under we tax our citizens and businesses today, government has forced people into creating a demand for a service that only exists because of the convolutions of the law!  In other words, the tax law, which is not necessary and could easily be replaced with a simple code, forces people to pay huge amounts for a service that doesn't do them any productive good.

I've often thought about the impact that simplifying or flattening the tax code would have upon the accounting profession, and Lord knows I've written about the tax code, like here.  But really, who truly wants to be in a profession that only exists because the government is too stupid and corrupt to produce a simplified tax law that almost every citizen can deal with on his or her own?

I suppose that while the news media continue to bash Trump for his various stream-of-consciousness statements, I hope he stays around for a while.  Every time he does an interview, it's almost a certainty that he will say something -- maybe not the thing the pundits report on, but something -- that makes you look at what was a political issue in a different way.  And gives me a column, thank you very much.

Donald Trump may not be the candidate of the Republicans in November 2016, but as long as he hangs around, he makes us think in a new way.

And new thinking would not hurt this country, even a little.

  Copyright 2015 by Robert Sutton
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