The Single Biggest Problem With Our Tax Code Is ...

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What's the most important change you'd make in our taxation system? That's our latest question in our crowd-sourced feature Working it Out. We got hundreds of responses both at The Atlantic on through our online polling services with Toluna. Here are some of the best responses, grouped together by theme. Keep writing in with your responses, which we'll publish through the weekend until Marty Nemko publishes his column on Monday.

First thing, let's kill all the loopholes

- The closest thing there is to a consensus: We have way too many deductions, expenditures, loopholes, what ever you want to call them...and that making the tax code more efficient would mean getting rid of most of these, lowering nominal tax rates and raising slightly more tax revenue.

- Close all the tax loopholes for giant corporations, oil companies, and big-pharma. I would also let the Bush tax cuts expire for those making over $1 million per year.

- Close the many loopholes that make it possible for people with very large incomes to avoid paying their share of taxes, so that the middle class is carrying the heaviest tax burden, and is left without enough money to make ends meet.

- Eliminate tax breaks for the wealthy. We have been waiting for the 'trickle down' for almost ten years now, and it has not happened. A flat tax rate is ideal, but if we are to help anyone out with tax breaks, it should be the lower to middle classes.

- A flat percentage for high-income people without loop holes that they can use to escape paying their fair share of taxes

- I'd take out some of the loopholes that do not apply to the Average Joe (and Josephine) , such as capital gains deductions, and limit the mortgage deductions to homeowners who live in that particular tax-deducted home.

Create a national sales tax

I'd like to raise the capital gains tax for anything held less than six months or a year.  Someone else suggested a variable rate tied to income, and I could see that.

I think a national sales tax on non-essential things (ie excluding clothes, food, housing)  as well as a smaller flat tax on income over the poverty line would also be OK.

Mostly I'd like to close off a lot of the funky stuff that separates the wealthy from everyone else. They wouldn't need to go through such tax code contortions if there was a little more fairness in the general model.  Fewer hoops means less jumping.

Focus on progressivity

I'd put some of the progressiveness back into the tax code.  Want to tax capital gains at a lower rate, fine; but no need to have it be flat.  Is investment really going to dry up if the cap gains rates are 15, 20, and 25% for certain income levels?  

I'd also look at phasing out the mortgage interest deduction.  It think it is in part responsible for the housing bubble and incents people to buy bigger houses than they need (McMansions). Buy as big of a house as you'd like, but We The People don't need to be subsidizing it.

Third point is to strengthen the inheritance tax.  Eliminating it is in my mind a big step towards creating a permanent aristocracy, which is not what this country was founded upon.  I'm fine with a several million dollar carve out based on the idea of family farms, businesses, etc., but I don't like the idea of junior getting millions upon millions of unearned money for free.

Tax the rich

- Tax the rich. Why is my labor taxed at a higher rate than money invested? That's telling me that something on paper is worth more than my actual work.

- The Warren Buffet principle that his secretary shouldn't pay more taxes than he does. The wealthy should have to pay the same percentage as everyone else.

Collectibility is key

A 3-tiered flat tax rate across the board for everyone with very few tax deductions or no deductions. This ensures almost 100% collectibility and leaves very little room to cheat on one's taxes

Everyone should pay

- A prorated tax where everyone, and I mean everyone, pays something. Even the poor should pay a tiny bit. Now it has about 10 different tiers or levels. You cannot run a nation where only 52% of the people pay the [income] taxes to run it.

- Don't give money back to people on welfare who also get to collect on the earned income credit. They end up with thousands of dollars for sitting around doing nothing

It's not the taxes, it's the welfare

i think we should be more concerned about the abuse of the welfare system and food stamps and less concerned about taxes

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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