Too complicated

Speaking of taxes, a couple of recent news reports merit attention.

First, a U.S. Treasury watchdog office found that unlicensed tax preparers often make significant errors when calculating a taxpayer’s obligation.

Agents posing as taxpayers paid to have returns done at 12 commercial chains and 16 independently owned tax preparation firms in a large U.S. city. Only 11 of those 28 returns were done accurately.

Meanwhile, pity poor Charles Rangel, the New York Democrat who heads the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax laws. Rep. Rangel now finds himself on the hot seat because he owes $5,000 to the IRS for failing to report rental income he earned from a vacation property he owns in the Dominican Republic.

No word on whether Rep. Rangel hired one of those “unlicensed” tax preparers (because you know he doesn’t do his own return).

Rep. Rangel argues he made an innocent mistake and didn’t properly understand the details of the mortgage he holds on the property.

Fine.

But what does it say about our IRS code when even professional tax preparers regularly make errors interpreting tax law — and when the man who runs the powerful committee that actually writes our tax laws can’t even get his own return correct?

The jovial Rep. Rangel has long been a hyperpartisan who eagerly spars with Republicans over tax issues. Perhaps his first order of business next year — if he still has his chairmanship — should be to reach across the aisle and find some common ground with his GOP colleagues on tackling the vital issue of tax reform and simplification.

But don’t count on it.

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