Many countries have a simple, fair tax system. Could the US be next? | KERA News

Many countries have a simple, fair tax system. Could the US be next?

Sep 27, 2017

"Historic tax relief for the American people."

That's what President Donald Trump promised today at a speech in Indiana.

But no one expects fixing America's convoluted tax system is going to be easy. And yet, there are plenty of other wealthy countries that have devised fair, straightforward tax structures that citizens support. 

Author and journalist T.R. Reid spent a year travelling around the world to see how other people pay taxes. The result is his latest book, "A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer and More Efficient Tax System."

Reid is envious of the system Japan uses. Citizens are informed of their tax burden with a postcard. They can dispute the figure, but most don't. 

"It's a matter of minutes, and it costs nothing," Reid says. "We could do that too."

Americans might think they pay the highest tax rate in the world. Reid says that's a myth — when the US is measured against the 35 richest countries, it ranks 30th in total tax burden.

"We're under-taxed," Reid notes. 

Except when it comes to America's corporate tax rate. That's significantly higher than many competing countries. Most Democrats and Republicans agree that reducing the corporate tax rate would push more American companies to move their profits back to the US from overseas. The GOP plan released Wednesday would lower tax rates by eliminating exemptions and deductions.

"The only flaw is they don't say which exemptions and deductions they're going to take away," Reid says. "And that's where the fight's going to come." 

There's no disputing that nobody enjoys paying taxes. Still, tax collectors in many other countries enjoy more respect than Internal Revenue Service employees receive in the US.  

"They have blazers, they have baseball caps, they have bands, they have mascots," Reid says. "People are proud to work for the tax agency. In the US, the IRS recommends that its employees not tell people where they work."

Check out the full interview above. Reid writes about taxes, but he'll make you smile.  


From PRI's The World ©2017 PRI