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Tax reform 2014, Senate version

Tax reform bill finally introduced in Congress' waning days

Almost two full years after the 113th Congress clocked in, its first bill has been filed just as the legislative body is about to end.

"Wait," you say. "I know it's been a do-nothing Congress, but I do remember a few bills passing the House and Senate since January 2013."

OK, technically it's not the first bill of this current Congress. But it is the bill awarded the official first numerical moniker: H.R. 1.

Tax reform reality checkWhen this group of lawmakers (using that work loosely) convened back in January 2013, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reserved the bill designation for legislation to rewrite the Internal Revenue Code.

The number one listing was to show how important overhauling of our bloated tax system is to taxpayers and Congress alike.

So how'd that symbolism work out for y'all?

Earlier effort dismissed: Sure, there was a lot of talk about tax reform. And the chairmen of the two tax-writing committees went on a mini-cross-country tax reform tour to ask regular folks how they'd change our revenue collection system.

But when Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) released voluminous working papers on ways to reform the tax code, even members of his own party declared the unofficial plan dead on arrival. Camp disagreed.

Camp, however, is nothing if not persistent.

Although he'll be exiting Capitol Hill for good when this lame duck session wraps up, the retiring Representative today officially introduced his earlier tax ideas as his formal tax reform proposal, dubbed the Tax Reform Act of 2014.

Starting over again: By finally dropping H.R. 1 into the hopper, Camp at least got a framework into the legislative system.

Of course, when the 113th Congress adjourns, all the bills that didn't make it through the process die.

Will someone else take up Camp's cause in the incoming 114th Congress?

It likely won't be Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who will take over the Ways and Means gavel next month. Ryan has his own tax and budget ideas, not to mention possible greater political aspirations. Once a national candidate, always a national candidate or hopeful at least.

But kudos to Camp for hanging in there to the bitter end. He and his staff did yeoman's work in pulling together such a comprehensive plan.

In introducing the bill, Camp said in part:

"At its core, the Tax Reform Act of 2014 is about making the tax code simpler and fairer for hardworking taxpayers. I believe every taxpayer should be able to do his or her taxes without fear that someone with better accountants or lawyers is getting a better deal. This legislation does that by ensuring that virtually all taxpayers would pay the least amount of taxes without having to keep track of every receipt and record and live in fear of an IRS audit. This legislation makes the Code more effective and efficient by getting rid of narrowly targeted provisions to lower tax rates across the board. This will enable small and large businesses alike to expand operations, hire new workers, and increase benefits and take-home pay.

"I hope that the formal introduction of this proposal in the House today will help spur further action on this critical issue in the 114th Congress.

"I very much look forward to watching the ongoing work of our great Committee as the tax reform debate continues to unfold in the 114th Congress."

We'll be watching, too, Rep. Camp. And if any of your tax reform proposals do eventually make it into law, I hope those members of Congress and the president invite you to the signing ceremony.

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