STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - April 15, 2005)
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By Mr. SPECTER:
S. 812. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to impose a flat tax only on Individual taxable earned income and business taxable income, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance.
Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, this week, American taxpayers face another Federal income tax deadline. The date of April 15 stabs fear, anxiety, and unease into the hearts of millions of Americans. Every year during ``tax season,'' millions of Americans spend their evenings poring over page after page of IRS instructions, going through their records looking for information and struggling to find and fill out all the appropriate forms on the Federal tax returns. Americans are intimidated by the sheer number of different tax forms and their instructions, many of which they may be unsure whether they need to file. Given the approximately 325 possible forms, not to mention the instructions that accompany them, simply trying to determine which form to file can in itself be a daunting and overwhelming task. According to a 2002 study conducted by the Tax Foundation, American taxpayers, including businesses, spend more than 5.8 billion hours and $194 billion each year in complying with tax laws. That works out to more than $2,400 per U.S. household. Much of this time is spent burrowing through IRS laws and regulations which fill 17,000 pages and have grown from 744,000 words in 1955 to over 6.9 million words in 2000. By contrast, the Pledge of Allegiance has only 31 words, the Gettysburg Address has 267 words, the Declaration of Independence has about 1,300 words, and the Bible has only about 1,773,000 words.
The majority of taxpayers still face filing tax forms that are far too complicated and take far too long to complete. According to the estimated preparation time listed on the forms by the IRS, the 2004 Form 1040 is estimated to take 13 hours and 35 minutes to complete. Moreover this does not include the estimated time to complete the accompanying schedules, such as Schedule A, for itemized deductions, which carries an estimated preparation time of 5 hours, 37 minutes, or Schedule D, for reporting capital gains and losses, shows an estimated preparation time of 6 hours, 10 minutes. Moreover, this complexity is getting worse each year. Just from 2000 to 2004 the estimated time to prepare Form 1040 jumped 34 minutes.
It is no wonder that well over half of all taxpayers, 56 percent according to a recent survey, now hire an outside professional to prepare their tax returns for them. However, the fact that only about 30 percent of individuals itemize their deductions shows that a significant percentage of our taxpaying population believes that the tax system is too complex for them to deal with. We all understand that paying taxes will never be something we enjoy, but neither should it be cruel and unusual punishment. Further, the pace of change to the Internal Revenue Code is brisk--Congress made about 9,500 tax code changes in the past thirteen years. And we are far from being finished. Year after year, we continue to ask the same question--isn't there a better way?
My flat tax legislation would make filing a tax return a manageable chore, not a seemingly endless nightmare, for most taxpayers. My flat tax legislation will fundamentally revise the present tax code, with its myriad rates, deductions, and instructions. This legislation would institute a simple, flat 20 percent tax rate for all individuals and businesses. This proposal is not cast in stone, but is intended to move the debate forward by focusing attention on three key principles which are critical to an effective and equitable taxation system: simplicity, fairness and economic growth.
My flat tax plan would eliminate the kinds of frustrations I have outlined above for millions of taxpayers. This flat tax would enable us to scrap the great majority of the IRS rules, regulations and instructions and delete most of the 6.9 million words in the Internal Revenue
Code. Instead of billions of hours of non-productive time spent in compliance with, or avoidance of, the tax code, taxpayers would spend only the small amount of time necessary to fill out a postcard-sized form. Both business and individual taxpayers would thus find valuable hours freed up to engage in productive business activity, or for more time with their families, instead of poring over tax tables, schedules and regulations.
My flat tax proposal is dramatic, but so are its advantages: a taxation system that is simple, fair and designed to maximize prosperity for all Americans. A summary of the key advantages are:
Simplicity: A 10-line postcard filing would replace the myriad forms and attachments currently required, thus saving Americans up to 5.8 billion hours they currently spend every year in tax compliance.
Cuts Government: The flat tax would eliminate the lion's share of IRS rules, regulations and requirements, which have grown from 744,000 words in 1955 to 6.9 million words and 17,000 pages currently. It would also allow us to slash the mammoth IRS bureaucracy of approximately 117,000 employees, creating opportunities to put their expertise to use elsewhere in the government or in private industry.
Promotes Economic Growth: Economists estimate a growth due to a flat tax of over $2 trillion in national wealth over seven years, representing an increase of approximately $7,500 in personal wealth for every man, woman and child in America. This growth would also lead to the creation of 6 million new jobs.
Increases Efficiency: Investment decisions would be made on the basis of productivity rather than simply for tax avoidance, thus leading to even greater economic expansion.
Reduces Interest Rates: Economic forecasts indicate that interest rates would fall substantially, by as much as two points, as the flat tax removes many of the current disincentives to savings.
Lowers compliance costs: Americans would be able to save or invert up to $194 billion they currently spend every year in tax compliance.
Decreases fraud: As tax loopholes are eliminated and the tax code is simplified, there will be far less opportunity for tax avoidance and fraud, which now amounts to over $120 billion in uncollected revenue annually.
Reduces IRS costs: Simplification of the tax code will allow us to save significantly on the $10 billion annual budget currently allocated to the Internal Revenue Service.
The most dramatic way to illustrate the flat tax is to consider that the income tax form for the flat tax is printed on a postcard--it will allow all taxpayers to file their April 15 tax returns on a simple 10-line postcard. This postcard will take 15 minutes to fill out.
At my town hall meetings across Pennsylvania, there is considerable public support for fundamental tax reform.
This is a win-win situation for America because it lowers the tax burden on the taxpayers in the lower brackets. For example in the 2004 tax year, the standard deduction is $4,850 for a single taxpayer, $7,150 for a head of household and $9,700 for a married couple filing jointly, while the personal exemption for individuals and dependents is $3,100. Thus, under the current tax code, a family of four which does not itemize deductions would pay taxes on all income over $22,100--that is personal exemptions of$12,400 and a standard deduction of $9,700. By contrast, under my flat tax bill, that same family would receive a personal exemption of $30,000, and would pay tax on only income over that amount.
The tax loopholes enable write-offs of some $393 billion a year. What is eliminated under the flat tax are the loopholes, the deductions in this complicated code which can be deciphered, interpreted, and found really only by the $500-an-hour lawyers. That money is lost to the taxpayers. $120 billion would be saved by the elimination of fraud because of the simplicity of the Tax Code, the taxpayer being able to find out exactly what they owe.
This bill is modeled after a proposal organized and written by two very distinguished professors of law from Stanford University, Professor Hall and Professor Rabushka. Their model was first introduced in the Congress in the fall of 1994 by Majority Leader Richard Armey. I introduced the flat tax bill--the first one in the Senate--on March 2, 1995, Senate bill 488. On October 27, 1995, I introduced a Sense of the Senate Resolution calling on my colleagues to expedite Congressional adoption of a flat tax. The Resolution, which was introduced as an amendment to pending legislation, was not adopted. I reintroduced my legislation in the 105th Congress with slight modifications to reflect inflation-adjusted increases in the personal allowances and dependent allowances. I re-reintroduced the bill on April 15, 1999--income tax day--in a bill denominated as S. 822. I then introduced my flat tax legislation as an amendment to S. 1429, the Tax Reconciliation bill; the amendment was not adopted. During the 108th Congress, I introduced my flat tax legislation once again on April 11, 2003. On May 14, 2003, I offered an amendment to the Tax Reconciliation legislation urging the Senate to hold hearings and consider legislation providing for a flat tax; this amendment passed by a vote of 70 to 30 on May 15, 2003. I then testified on this issue at a subsequent hearing held by the Joint Economic Committee on November 5, 2003.
Over the years and prior to my legislative efforts on behalf of flat tax reform, I have devoted considerable time and attention to analyzing our nation's tax code and the policies which underlie it. I began the study of the complexities of the tax code over 40 years ago as a law student at Yale University. I included some tax law as part of my practice in my early years as an attorney in Philadelphia. In the spring of 1962, I published a law review article in the Villanova Law Review, ``Pension and Profit Sharing Plans: Coverage and Operation for Closely Held Corporations and Professional Associations,'' 7 Villanova L. Rev. 335, which in part focused on the inequity in making tax-exempt retirement benefits available to some kinds of businesses but not others. It was apparent then, as it is now, that the very complexities of the Internal Revenue Code could be used to give unfair advantage to some. Einstein himself is quoted as saying ``the hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.''
The Hall-Rabushka model envisioned a flat tax with no deductions whatever. After considerable reflection, I decided to include in the legislation limited deductions for home mortgage interest for up to $100,000 in borrowing and charitable contributions up to $2,500. While these modifications undercut the pure principle of the flat tax by continuing the use of tax policy to promote home buying and charitable contributions, I believe that those two deductions are so deeply ingrained in the financial planning of American families that they should be retained as a matter of fairness and public policy--and also political practicality. With those two deductions maintained, passage of a modified flat tax will be difficult, but without them, probably impossible.
In my judgment, an indispensable prerequisite to enactment of a modified flat tax is revenue neutrality. Professor Hall advised that the revenue neutrality ofthe Hall-Rabushka proposal, which uses a 19 percent rate, is based on a well-documented model founded on reliable governmental statistics. My legislation raises that rate from 19 percent to 20 percent to accommodate retaining limited home mortgage interest and charitable deductions.
This proposal taxes business revenues fully at their source, so that there is no personal taxation on interest, dividends, capital gains, gifts or estates. Restructured in this way, the tax code can become a powerful incentive for savings and investment--which translates into economic growth and expansion, more and better jobs, and raising the standard of living for all Americans.
The key advantages of this flat tax plan are threefold: First, it will dramatically simplify the payment of taxes. Second, it will remove much of the IRS regulatory morass now imposed on individual and corporate taxpayers, and allow those taxpayers to devote more of their energies to productive pursuits. Third, since it is a plan which rewards savings and investment, the flat tax will spur economic growth in all sectors of the economy as more money flows into investments and savings accounts.
Professors Hall and Rabushka have projected that within seven years of enactment, this type of a flat tax would produce a 6 percent increase in output from increased total work in the U.S. economy and increased capital formation. The economic growth would mean a $7,500 increase in the personal income of all Americans. No one likes to pay taxes. But Americans will be much more willing to pay their taxes under a system that they believe is fair, a system that they can understand, and a system that they recognize promotes rather than prevents growth and prosperity. My flat tax legislation will afford Americans such a tax system.
I ask unanimous consent that a copy of my flat tax postcard, a variety of specific cases that illustrate the fairness and simplicity of this flat tax, and an example flat tax table be printed in the RECORD following my statement.
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By Mr. SPECTER:
S. 813. A bill to amend part D of title XVIII of the Social Security Act to authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate for lower prices for medicare prescription drugs; to the Committee on Finance.
Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I have sought recognition today to introduce the Prescription Drug and Health Improvement Act of 2005 to reduce the high prices of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries. I introduced a similar version of this bill in the 108th Congress, S. 2766. To increase the likelihood that this bill may become law this bill does not include a costly provision which would have closed the gap in prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.
Americans, specifically senior citizens, pay the highest prices in the world for brand-name prescription drugs. With 45 million uninsured Americans and many more senior citizens without an adequate prescription drug benefit, filling a doctor's prescription is unaffordable for many people in this country. The United States has the greatest health care system in the world; however, too many seniors are forced to make difficult choices between life-sustaining prescription drugs and daily necessities.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimate that in 2004 per capita spending on prescription drugs rose approximately 12 percent, with a similar rate of growth expected for this year. Much of the increase in drug spending is due to higher utilization and the shift from older, lower cost drugs to newer, higher cost drugs. However, rapidly increasing drug prices are a critical component.
High drug prices, combined with the surging older population, are also taking a toll on State budgets and private sector health insurance benefits. Medicaid spending on prescription drugs increased at an average annual rate of nearly 19 percent between 1998 and 2002. Until lower priced drugs are available, pressures will continue to squeeze public programs at both the State and Federal level.
To address these problems, my legislation would reduce the high prices of prescription drugs to seniors by repealing the prohibition against interference by the Secretary of HHS with negotiations between drug manufacturers, pharmacies, and prescription drug plan sponsors and instead authorize the Secretary to negotiate contracts with manufacturers of covered prescription drugs. It will allow the Secretary of HHS to use Medicare's large beneficiary population to leverage bargaining power to obtain lower prescription drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.
Price negotiations between the Secretary of HHS and prescription drug manufacturers would be analogous to the ability of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to negotiate prescription drug prices with manufacturers. This bargaining power enables veterans to receive prescription drugs at a significant cost savings. According to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the average ``cash cost'' of a prescription in 2001 was $40.22. The average cost in the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system in fiscal year 2001 was $22.87.
In the 108th Congress, in my capacity as chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, I introduced the Veterans Prescription Drugs Assistance Act, S. 1153, which was reported out of committee, but was not considered before the full Senate. In the 109th Congress, I have again introduced the Veterans Prescription Drugs Assistance Act, S. 614.
This legislation will broaden the ability of veterans to access the Veterans Affairs' Prescription Drug Program. Under my bill, all Medicare-eligible veterans will be able to purchase medications at a tremendous price reduction through the Veterans Affairs' Prescription Drug Program. In many cases, this will save veterans who are Medicare beneficiaries up to 50 percent on the cost of prescribed medications, a significant savings for veterans. Similar savings may be available to America's seniors from the savings achieved using the HHS bargaining power, like the Veterans Affairs bargaining power for the benefit of veterans. These savings may provide America's seniors with fiscal relief from the increasing costs of prescription drugs.
I believe this bill can provide desperately needed access to inexpensive, effective prescription drugs for America's seniors. The time has come for concerted action in this arena. I urge my colleagues to move this legislation forward promptly.
I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.
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