The other day I commented on Herman's Cain's 9-9-9 plan, which turns out on closer analysis to be three VATs for the price of one. Replacing taxes on incomes and profits with a national sales tax, which is what Cain appears to be proposing, would indeed be simple--but not if you collected it in three tranches, each with its own tax-gathering apparatus and associated complexities.
Now, in something of the same spirit, the US is offered the alternative simplicity of the Perry flat tax.
This simple 20% flat tax will allow Americans to file their taxes on a postcard, saving up to $483 billion in compliance costs. By eliminating the dozens of carve-outs that make the current code so incomprehensible, we will renew incentives for entrepreneurial risk-taking and investment that creates jobs, inspires Americans to work hard and forms the foundation of a strong economy.
I note in passing that Perry's flat tax is not flat. (For families earning less than $500,000, he says, exemptions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes would remain. Effective tax rates would therefore vary according to circumstances. Also, the marginal rate would spike in some range of incomes above $500,000 as the exemptions were denied, then fall back at higher levels of income.) I also note in passing that this tax, at the rate indicated, has no chance of raising the 18% of national income that Perry intends to spend, or anything close to that. But for the moment I'm concentrating on the Republicans' difficulty with the concept of simplicity.