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A key symbol of the House Republican tax plan released Thursday is a model tax form — dubbed by backers as a “postcard” — advertised as a shorter, simpler way for some people to file their taxes.
And though the proposal would be novel for tax filers, the prospect of it is nothing new. In fact, the idea of a tax-filing postcard has floated around the political sphere for decades.
In 1981, economists Robert E. Hall and Alvin Rabushka presented their idea in the Wall Street Journal for a flat tax that included the “iconic postcard that became the symbol” of their philosophy, Rabushka wrote in a note, marking the tax proposal’s 25th anniversary.
The duo also wrote a book on the topic, called “The Flat Tax,” which has been updated in recent years.
Their book has an entire chapter devoted to the postcard proposal. In it, it explains that, “a cleanly designed tax system takes only a few elementary calculations.”
“For about 80 percent of the population, filling out this postcard once a year would be the only effort needed to satisfy the Internal Revenue Service,” they later write. “What a change from the many pages of schedules the frustrated taxpayer fills out today!”
In the anniversary note, Rabushka said the flat tax “picked up considerable steam” in the years after their Wall Street Journal article, “culminating in President [Ronald] Reagan’s Tax Reform Act of 1986.”
In 1995, Rabushka continued, House majority leader Dick Armey “put the flat tax back into the limelight” and worked with others, such as Steve Forbes, to do the same.
Forbes, the CEO of Forbes and twice a former Republican presidential candidate, wrote his own book in 2005 titled “Flat Tax Revolution: Using a Postcard to Abolish the IRS.”
After the election, Republicans began pushing the postcard proposal as part of a coming tax reform bill.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has been pushing for the postcard for months, talking about it in speeches, like this one he gave at the National Association of Manufacturers 2017 Manufacturing Summit in June, and in promotional videos, like this one he posted on his professional Facebook page in April.
For Republicans, if the postcard aspect of this tax bill does pass, it’s certainly been a long time coming. But will taxpayers ever actually drop this postcard into their own mailboxes for the IRS?
One thing is for sure: President Trump is pretty excited about it.
At a White House meeting with some Republican leaders on Thursday, Trump even kissed a mock-up of the postcard and then handed it back to Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady.
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