Morality and taxes

Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s moral.

And, unfortunately, that simple phrase defines the major problem with the tax code of the United States.

The tax code is complicated – thousands of pages – and has special favors for individuals, businesses, categories of businesses and professions. It is used to encourage or discourage certain activities, punish or reward behaviors.

Our tax code has become a giant mass of political paybacks and it is time to simplify it.

Last week, executives from Apple appeared before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to explain why it leaves billions of dollars overseas rather than bringing them home where they can be taxed.

Bluntly put, they do it because it is legal and because, at 35 percent, the United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. One of the astonishing things that came out last week is that Apple has a subsidiary in Ireland that doesn’t even have a physical address – and that is perfectly legal.

Lest anyone think Apple is the only one playing this game, past testifiers before this same Senate committee include Microsoft and Hewlett Packard – and they play much the same game with their overseas earnings.

Simplifying the code and getting rid of thousands of breaks and favors would allow tax rates to be lowered. Money would flow into the Treasury and everyone would be paying a fair share of taxes.

In short, maybe it’s time to inject a little morality into our tax code.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.