Koskinen acknowledged that the tax code is difficult even for tax experts. “We have to simplify the tax code. It is beyond being impenetrable. I don’t know how anyone understands all the ramifications of it,” he told the audience. “I think the pressure is building from the public to do something about the complexity of the tax code.”
At the same time, Koskinen does not believe it will happen anytime soon if it does not happen in 2015; 2016 is a nonstarter because it is a presidential election year. He predicted that, if not this year, than it will likely happen within the next five years. He advised that, over that time period, there will be people working on it in great detail. “I would simply say that it’s instructive if you look at both the House and Senate at the number of individual congressmen and senators who have taken a position that tax reform is important, either for corporations or for corporations and individuals as well. You would almost think there is a quorum there if you could pull them all together for it.”
Koskinen spoke of his excellent working relationship with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-WI, who is a “vigorous supporter” of tax reform, according to Koskinen, and that the two are working together on overhauling the code. “I’ve had good discussions with him and we are actually working with his staff; trying to provide them any support they need in this area.”
However, the Herculean task will not be easy, Koskinen admitted. He quoted former Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., as saying, “the IRS code is longer than the Bible with none of the good news.” He added, “Clearly the burden on taxpayers, individual and corporate, makes no sense and so the best thing Congress can do is—and one which we are happy to help on a technical basis—work on the policy issues, but on a technical basis, anything we can do to simplify the tax code we would be delighted to do.”
The tax policy issues are going to have to be the domain of discussions between the administration and the Congress, Koskinen noted. However, in terms of the implications of any policy change, he stated that the discussions so far have been positive, despite negative reports in the media.