Opinion: Georgians keep FairTax barely breathing in Congress

060524 - DULUTH, GA -- Former radio personality Neal Boortz championed the FairTax movement.
060524 - DULUTH, GA -- Former radio personality Neal Boortz championed the FairTax movement.

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

The news this week from the IRS Commissioner that Americans are cheating Uncle Sam out of maybe more than $1 trillion in taxes each year was greeted in a familiar way on my social media — with supporters of the FairTax saying it’s time to move to a completely different tax system.

But as April 15 arrived again this year, the FairTax remains an unlikely solution to the question of how to fund the operations of the federal government.

For those not familiar with the FairTax, it would get rid of the Internal Revenue Service and replace the income tax system with a tax on all retail sales.

Instead of having money taken out of your paycheck at work, you would pay every time you buy something, which might be best described as a national sales tax.  The more you spend, the more you pay in taxes, like the current system with gasoline.

“How simple is paying your income tax?” the FairTax Twitter account asked this week.  “We bet NOT as simple as going shopping!”

“I still believe the FairTax has a future,” said former U.S. Rep. John Linder of Georgia, who stirred interest in the idea when he wrote a book about it with WSB talk radio host Neal Boortz.

Even in retirement, you could sense Linder’s keen interest, as he rattled off facts and figures about taxes, making the case like he was still prowling the halls of Congress.

“The FairTax broadens the base, reduces the rate and untaxes the poor,” Linder said.

When Linder left the Congress after the 2010 elections, he handed off the FairTax to U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall of Georgia — who has now handed the baton to U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler.

“The Fair Tax would create the simple tax code needed to make our economy even stronger,” Carter said earlier this year when he introduced the bill for the 117th Congress.

The trajectory of the FairTax reminds me of the ‘flat tax’ — which was the cool tax reform idea that dominated GOP circles in the 1980′s and 90′s, as interest in the FairTax has waned in Congress, just like the ‘flat tax’ has faded.

When President Donald Trump moved to pass a package of tax cuts in 2017, the FairTax was nowhere to be found; Republicans have never brought the idea to a vote in either the House or Senate.

Back in 2016, there were 75 U.S. House members signed on to the FairTax bill, with eight from Georgia.  Now it’s down to only 21 GOP supporters, with four from Georgia.

“The FairTax creates a level playing field by taxing Americans at the cash register,” said U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens.

But there’s no sign the FairTax will be getting rid of the IRS anytime soon.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and the Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com

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