America's Tax Wish List: The Arcane, The Petty, The Greedy

More than 1,400 suggestions were offered to the Senate Finance Committee on what changes should be made to the tax system.

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Photographer: Jim Watson/AFP

Since members of Congress and President Barack Obama haven't been able to make much progress on reforming the tax code, the Senate Finance Committee in March asked the general public for ideas. And America, you came through, with more than 1,400 submissions. 

Among the many ideas that the Finance Committee made public this week, there are lots of big sweeping ideas about making the tax code simpler. But there's so much more: The arcane, the quirky and the just plain greedy.

In a way, it's a pretty revealing exercise in why tax overhauls are so difficult to achieve: Any effort to revamp the tax code brings out few proposals for the common weal and countless special pleaders, who insist that the tax break they love the most is the exception that should survive the loophole-plugging. Here are a few that caught our eye, along with the arguments they provided.

Comcast

The cable company we all love to hate wants to make sure Congress doesn't prevent businesses from deducting advertising costs immediately. Previous proposals have suggested spreading those deductions out over several years—a disincentive to spend money on advertising.

"The problem with this approach, beyond upsetting a long-settled area of the law, is that, unlike the gradual wasting value of most property over time, there is no clear basis on which to treat the cost of advertising as creating an asset whose value decreases as time passes."

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 23:  A Comcast service van is shown on April 23, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  Published reports indicate that Comcast Corp. is pulling the plug on its proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable due to regulatory hurdles.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 23: A Comcast service van is shown on April 23, 2015 in Miami, Florida. Published reports indicate that Comcast Corp. is pulling the plug on its proposed $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable due to regulatory hurdles. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

American Fraternal Alliance

The Modern Woodmen of America and the Knights of Columbus want to protect section 501(c) (8), which ensures their tax-exempt status.

 "Through the fraternal lodge structure, fraternal members marshal resources and fill the gaps in community services right in their own back yard. Whether it is supplying food and shelter in the wake of a disaster, covering the cost of medical care for underprivileged children, or providing a domestic abuse center with much needed supplies—totaling 83 million volunteer hours and $388.5 million in direct support in 2013 alone – fraternals occupy a unique and irreplaceable position in America’s social fabric."

Wishart Lake Protective Corporation

James Denny of Virginia is in charge of this company that owns a 20-acre lake and was created because his lawyer told him to do to get limited liability. He's hoping to get out of filing tax forms.

"WLPC does not produce a product, does not sell a product or provide a service for a fee, does not conduct business and has no income and yet is required to file a three page U.S. income tax return for an S corporation (Form 1120S) annually to report a deduction of about $118.60 (license fee of $100 and about $18.60 real estate tax)."

Professional Beauty Association

The nation's beauticians are pushing a bill to "promote tax compliance in the cosmetology sector" that would let them get tax credits when tipped workers report income correctly.

"While job growth in the salon industry has outpaced the overall economy in eleven of the past 15 years, our industry has not been immune to waves of economic uncertainty."

 PGA Tour

Even though the NFL has given up its tax-exempt status, the golfers are fighting to keep theirs, citing the benefits to charities that receive money from tournaments.

"The PGA TOUR has no teams, no owners and no stockholders or investors who are motivated by bottom-line profits of the corporation…. The PGA TOUR's charitable tournament structure is unique in professional sports."

during round two of the World Golf Championship Cadillac Match Play at TPC Harding Park on April 30, 2015 in San Francisco, California.
during round two of the World Golf Championship Cadillac Match Play at TPC Harding Park on April 30, 2015 in San Francisco, California.
Photographer: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Hardwood Federation

Clicked on this because I thought it was about basketball. It isn't.

"Standing timber is currently taxed at the capital gains rate, recognizing the long term investment and risk that landowners incur to produce trees that can take 20-80 years to mature. Since 1943, the federal tax code has treated timber harvest proceeds and the sale of standing trees as capital gains. We are concerned that adjusting or eliminating this deduction would be devastating for forest landowners across the spectrum--from small private landowners trying to put a child through college with a timber thinning project to industrial forest landowners that manage considerably larger holdings."

Cash Coalition

Who wouldn't want to be part of the Cash Coalition? Oh, it's about preserving cash accounting.

"Specifically, we are writing to ask that you preserve the cash method of accounting for service pass-through entities, including partnerships and Subchapter S corporations, farmers and ranchers, and personal service corporations. The cash method of accounting is the foundation upon which these types of businesses have built their businesses for decades."

Joe Citizen

Want to know what Joe Citizen is thinking? Well, someone calling himself Joe Citizen offered this up:

"Imperative to Revise The Australia-USA Tax Treaty; To Prevent Double Taxation of Australian Residents And To Incorporate US Respect For Australian Sovereignty."

 

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