Zero-Based Tax Reform: Camp, Baucus (‘Max and Dave’)

Photograph by Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., right, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), walks with Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Vice Chairman, to a discussion of the JTC on the topic of reforming the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

Welcome to Taxreform.gov — a new bipartisan entry on the Internet sponsored by Rep. Dave Camp, Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Camp says he is “committed” to getting a tax overhaul out of his committee this year. Baucus, who will retire at the end of 2014, is working on a bill but can’t say for sure that his committee will produce one this year. They’re reaching out to the public for ideas as they move forward.

Bloomberg’s Richard Rubin writes about the “Max and Dave” tour underway, which comes with more than a website — there’s a Twitter handle too: @simplertaxes.

The two are talking about a zero-based approach to writing a new federal tax code that has undergone 15,000 amendments since 1986.

“What we’re trying to do is set up a framework where we don’t take the current tax code and see what individual thing we pull out — we take a blank piece of paper and start over,” Camp said in an interview on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” today. “There has been a lot of layering upon layering and tinkering of the tax code. The complexity is really the big thing that we’re going to try to get at.”

“One thing I know we agree on, and I know the American public agrees on, is loopholes, which allow corporations, many corporations, not to pay any income taxes,” Baucus said. “That’s just not right… When we start from scratch, start from no deductions, no credits, no exclusions, that puts the burden on them as those who want those provisions to state a better case as to why they should be there.”

The big question is what comes out of this potential tax reform: A gain in federal revenue that the White House is seeking, or the “revenue neutral” result of no additional revenue the House’s Republicans are demanding.

“That’s the fundamental question that’s being asked in this debate,” Baucus said. “My sense is, like a lot of things in this town, that we’re going to have to compromise. There is going to be some rate reduction. There is going to be some revenue raised.” The amount, he said, is what will have to be negotiated.

“I think that’s getting to the end game before we get there,” Camp said. “I can tell you right now most of my caucus is not in favor of more revenues. They think we did that at the end of last year. We’ve got to move forward on getting the policy right and working together to get the best possible tax code and then we’ll resolve those issues.”

While Camp promises a bill this year, Baucus is less confident: “We’ll see. I don’t know. I cannot answer that question definitively. It depends on how quickly we can get an agreement in our committee…

“We’ll reach a point where I think we’ll pass legislation,” Baucus said. “And if it’s good legislation that tends to make some sense, then it’s more likely that Majority Leader Harry Reid will want to schedule it on the floor, and it’s more likely that we’ll be able to pass it with 60 votes.”

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