As soon as President Trump put his Goldman boys, Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin, in charge of his tax plan, I knew Trump’s tax plan would never fulfill his and his henchmen’s promises of helping the middle class and of not giving additional tax breaks to the rich. The Trump Tax plan, as it now exists, proves those conjoined promises to be the greatest lie Trump ever told.
After two decades with Goldman Sachs, Munchkin (as he shall hereinafter be known for he lives on the Goldman-bricked road) bought his own bank, IndyMac. He renamed it OneWest and turned it into a mega repo machine in 2009, whirring out hyuuge amounts of crash cash during the Great Recession. His revamped bank set a speed record for putting homeowners out on the street, foreclosing one home every thirty seconds. A vice president of OneWest even admitted in court she shortened her signature so that she could spend less than thirty seconds processing each foreclosure. As a result of this rush to foreclose, the court found the bank had frequently mishandled documents because it did not even read many of them before foreclosing.
Munchkin’s grim reaper of a bank closed its greedy grip on a whopping 35,000 homes during the Great Recession. The bank was even so unscrupulous as to instruct homeowners to stop making payments, ostensibly because it was going to modify the loans, but in reality in order to purify its argument for repossession. (For more on the Munchkin’s greed, read “U.S. Treasury Becomes a Laughing Stock.”)
Cohn, meanwhile, was president and COO of Goldman Sachs during the years when the Goldman squid monstrously raped its own clients by encouraging them to make investments that it bet its own money against. Cohn claimed in his own testimony that never happened, and his defense consisted of arguing that his company lost money during the Great Recession, so this couldn’t be true … as if a complex company with many areas of business couldn’t lose money overall during a crisis while making money in one area of business where it bet against its own advice to its clients. (See WSJ: “Gary Cohn Testimony: Goldman Didn’t Bet Against Clients.”
The senate subcommittee Cohn was speaking to on the matter disagreed in its own conclusion:
“Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs were not simply market-makers, they were self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that helped trigger the crisis. They bundled toxic mortgages into complex financial instruments, got the credit rating agencies to label them as AAA securities, and sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system, and all too often betting against the instruments they sold and profiting at the expense of their clients.” (The Independent: “Goldman ‘bet against securities it sold to clients’”
The SEC ultimately fined Goldman half a billion dollars for its dishonesty, and Goldman conceded to its dishonesty. (See “Goldman Sachs and The ABACUS Deal.”)
By placing these financial weasels in full charge of creating his tax plan, Trump proved to my satisfaction that he never intended to serve the middle class. Some people, however, did not accept my claims putting the worst swamp creatures in charge of his signature campaign pledge did not prove Trump would prove to be a Trojan horse for the establishment. Now that we have seen both Senate and House versions of the plan, however, the proof is in the pudding (the sloppy mess that envelops Trump’s tax plan).
The Trump tax plan, in either of its current conceptions, will be the worst thing that ever happened to America, even though it will certainly boost stocks, and I’ll tell you why below. Still, many will refuse to see the truth and will be addled in their evaluations down the road by the fact that the plan did kick the stock market into even higher gear.
Trump tax plan is a loophole haven for the richest of the rich
One of the biggest promises of tax reform was that it would, in Trump parlance, hyuugely simplify the tax code by eliminating loopholes. This loophole elimination would make sure that any reduction in the upper tax bracket for the rich did not create additional tax savings for the top one percent so that, this time around, tax revision would benefit the middle class.
Contrary to the Goldman boys’ promises, both the senate and house versions of the Trump tax plan create the most massive tax cuts the rich have ever received because they leave most of the loopholes in place. Even President Reagan’s tax designer, David Stockman, calls the Trump tax plan “a wish list of … Wall Street.” Why wouldn’t it be when it was designed by Wall Street moguls whose snaky mouths revealed a forked tongue at their corner whenever they smiled and promised their plans would not include tax cuts for the rich?
This tax plan, in either incarnation, is the Christmas Wish Book for Wall Street, and it is built on total economic denial about the rampant deficits it will create as far as the eye can see.
The biggest loophole of all, the one loved by hedge-fund managers, lawyers and stock brokers, is left firmly in place. The House bill preserves for its wealthiest cronies on Wall Street the carried-interest tax loophole for private-equity managers, venture capitalists, hedge-fund managers and certain real estate investors … like Trump. Trump and Cohn specifically stated they were committed to ending this special provision that helps hedge-fund managers, but this grand loophole they bedeviled during the campaign is still there. (So, watch carefully to see how loudly they argue for its removal now that we can all see it remains firmly in place.)
The plan, as it stands in the Senate, allows “pass-through” businesses …. to deduct 22 percent of their income before paying taxes, up to a certain limit. In the House, it allows those pass-throughs to pay taxes at a special low rate. The pool of pass-through businesses includes any number of cookie shops and bodegas and corner stores, but also law firms, hedge funds, consulting firms, real-estate development companies, investment partnerships, and lobbying businesses. An estimated 70 percent of the benefits for such pass-through firms go to the top 1 percent of income earners—meaning this benefit is more about helping rich families than it is about helping small local businesses.
Moreover, such changes to the way pass-through businesses are taxed complicate the code and create a preferential category for rich individuals to try to work their income into…. The new provisions have “the potential to become the single greatest inducement to tax arbitrage ever enacted by a single Congress,” the tax expert Daniel Shaviro of New York University Law School has written, also saying that they “might end up being the single worst structural change in the history of the U.S. federal income tax.” (The Atlantic)
“After I saw that tax bill, I lost hope with the drain the swamp concept,” Gundlach said. “The swamp keeps getting bigger.” (NewsMax)
Swamp wins all in this plan. In either of its currently approved forms, the Trump tax plan trumps the middle class for decades to come!
Capital gains tax cuts preserved in Trump tax plan
If President Trump’s tax plan was intended to help the middle class, the first thing it would do is finally end the one tax provision that has created the biggest income disparity in history between the top ten percent of tax payers and all the rest of us. It would eliminate the special capital-gains tax break that has built real-estate bubbles and stock bubbles but done nothing to create jobs for the middle class in spite of endless promises that it will — promises that are now believed by blue-collar Republicans at the level of religious dogma.
While the new plans offer no additional capital-gains tax reduction for the rich, they keep this now sacred loophole locked in place. Republicans and Democrats wouldn’t dare talk about further reductions in this area because that would risk putting this special rate that has served the one percent so well at risk by putting it back into the discussion. Best to be happy with the massive gains the rich have already secured in this area and focus on opening entirely new areas of gains for the rich rather than to bring this up for discussion again.
I’m bringing it up precisely because they don’t.
Recently I’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh (because I listen to broadcasters on all sides) repeat and re-repreat his oft’ told lie that the rich are already taxed more than the middle class because the rich — say the top twenty percent — pay more in income tax than the entire eighty percent beneath them. It’s a lie in the form of a half truth. Rush and others like him fully know this; but you will never hear them tell the remainder of the truth. The lie turns on your natural assumption when you hear the truth that 20% of the people are paying 80% of the income taxes — that the rich are clearly doing the lion’s share of the pulling.
Limbaugh and other establishment shills make it sound like the rich are incredibly generous but that only works because the real truth is so incredible — so obscene — that it never occurs to people. The untold half of this truth is that this 20% are making more than 80% of all the income in the US. So, if they were even paying an equal share, they would be paying more than eighty percent of all the income taxes in the US. (Limbaugh even as the audacity to rebrand himself as being anti-establishment as he repeats this old canard and supports Trump.)
Here’s the catch with the special capital-gains tax rate that has been enshrined in the tax code for decades: the rich do not make most of their money off of salaries! They make it off of their stock options in the companies they manage and other stock investments, and off of trading bonds and buying and selling real estate, football teams and art. All of the profit from those activities is taxed as capital gains, and if you hold those investments for longer than a year, income from those investments is all taxed at a rate that is insanely lower than the middle class income tax rates! The rich pay only 15%! (Only the top one percenters pay the slightly higher cap-gains tax rate of 20%, which is till lower than the tax rates paid on ordinary income by most of the middle class.)
Tell me that the privileged capital gains tax rate is not a tax savings that is almost exclusively for the richest of the very rich! Believe it not, 56% of the benefit of privileged lower tax rates on capital gains goes to the top 0.1% of the US population! Yes, you heard that right: not the top ten percent, not the top one percent, but just one-tenth of the top one percent receive 56% of ALL the tax savings realized by the nation’s preferred lower tax rate on capital gains!
That’s why this privileged loophole isn’t being talked about by anyone. It’s already the single-largest reason the rich pay far less than their fair share in taxes, and it is the single-greatest reason for the wealth disparity that has grown so wide in the US since the Reagan years. The form of money making that the rich use gets taxed at a much lower rate than your form of money making. That’s the dirty little secret that hides in plain sight.
The fact that the richest people do not make their money off of wages and salaries explains why Donald Trump could not care less about getting paid a salary to be president. His willingness to forego a presidential salary was pure showboating because even a presidential salary is chump change compared to how much money the Donald will make from becoming president if his new tax cuts become law (and how much he already saves by this preferential rate on his gains from real-estate investments which is new tax plan preserves for him and his kind). What Trump’s tax plan does is continue to enshrine for years to come the disproportionately beneficial tax treatment the rich already receive for their primary source of income.
Yet, the middle class majority happily allows the rich this filthy special privilege on their kind of income. They are beguiled by the current top income-tax rate of 39.6%, which is nothing but smoke and mirrors, to believe the rich are paying higher taxes. In truth, the rich rarely even pay that higher rate on their ordinary income due to loopholes, but ordinary income is by far the SMALLEST source of their personal income. That high tax rate is simply there to complete the illusion so the middle masses will continue to believe the rich are already doing more than their fair share. It enables Rush and others to say, “Look, the Rich are already paying more than their fair share.”
The establishment Republican’s argument for this privileged from of income in the tax code has always been that a lower cap-gains tax rate creates jobs. Really? Do you suppose that people getting capital-gains tax breaks are spending their savings building new factories, as Ronald Reagan promised they would when he first trotted out voodoo economics?
Of course, they are not. Why on earth would they? They use the money to buy more stock in companies that already exist, bidding up the stock market because that is the low-hanging fruit. Why would anyone build a factory in the US or any other kind of business that creates jobs with their tax savings when the deferred profit from that factory would all have to be taxed as ordinary income? Why would you try to reinvest your tax savings in a area where your next profits will be taxed at a much higher rate? That’s insane. Why wouldn’t you, instead, invest in more stocks where the future gains on your re-investment will all be taxed at the preferred cap-gains tax rate you just enjoyed? The concept that the rich would ever invest in new factories is ludicrous just from a simple tax principle.
Show me the thousands of new factories created across America since we started down this road under Reagan. Show me how the middle class has seen its income grow. Show me how much middle-class benefits have grown during our decades of lower capital-gains tax rates. Show me how the continuance of these low rates kept us out of economic crashes in the intervening years by providing sustained economic growth from Reagan to now. (A privileged rate has been in play that long, but we’ve had plenty of busts during that time.) Show how in any manner the middle class is better off today — more robust — because of this huge tax gift to the so-called “job creators.”
Even if you assume the rich are too dumb to reinvest the money they save back into stocks where they can continue to benefit from a much lower tax rate, why would they invest in building new factories with all the liabilities and legal and political obstacles involved in building a factory? Why would you take on the huge risk of a new venture when you can just invest in a going concern? It’s ludicrous to think that is where this tax savings goes.
So, why on earth do blue-collar Republicans continue to believe it is only fair to give the richest of all Americans a MUCH LOWERtax rate on the largest portion of their income than the middle class pays? (I put it in caps and underline it to scream it out because for decades people keep believing the nonsense that the rich establishment feeds them, and Democrats really do nothing to stop it because they serve the same establishment.)
Why? Because of the pure fantasy that someday they will be there. When their ship finally comes in, they don’t want it taxed away. It’s a lottery mentality. As in any lottery or casino, the jackpot almost never comes, but it hits just often enough to keep the fantasy afloat.
Follow the money. Where has the tax savings really gone? It was used to bid up the price of ball teams, to bid up the stock market, to bid up the real-estate market, to buy bigger yachts and more lavish mansions and bigger car collections and art collections. That’s why most of those things have appreciated extravagantly while the middle class has shrunk.
The savings are thoroughly locked up in assets that will be passed along (mostly untaxed) to the wealthiest of children, who will either piss it all away or, in rare cases, continue to build up daddy’s dynasty … not by creating jobs, just by hoarding more assets.
Disgustingly, there is one exception to the Republicans’ choice not to tangle with capital-gains tax breaks under the new Trump tax plan. In the one area of capital gains that helps the average person the most — the elimination of all capital-gains tax on the first $250,000 in gains on the sale of one’s personal residence ($500k per couple) — Republicans want to make that exemption harder for the average person to get. They are now raising the number of years one must have resided in their personal residence from two years to five. It must have bothered members of congress to see that this tax exemption helped the average person disproportionately compared to the rich for whom the first $250,000 would be a small part of their total gains on the sale of their mansions. They also want to remove the tax loss you can claim if your house burns to the ground.
Trump tax plan completely eliminates the estate tax
Trump and his good ol’ Goldman boys score a victory that inures purely to the top one percent with this one, which means the beneficiaries include Trump. This gift goes only to the rich because the federal inheritance tax already includes an exemption for the first $5.49 million of any estate PER HEIR. (i.e., an $11 million exemption per married couple, even though — with the exception of the deepest backwoods swampy parts of the south — only one person in any couple is an actual heir by blood.
The estate tax has already been whittled down by Bush and others over the years to where only 0.2% of the estates in the US ever pay any estate/inheritance tax. In it’s already reduced form, the estate tax is a tax that only hits the dynasties of the wealthiest of all Americans, but the effective tax (already much lower than it used to be) can range as high as 40% of the estate. (Because of the massive exclusion, no estate ever pays anything near the rate of 50% that you hear people talk about.) The average windfall for the top 0.2% from the elimination of this tax will be about $3 million PER HEIR. For the crème de la crème, however, the tax savings is $20 million per heir and higher.
Those who love to feed the rich on a silver spoon call this a “death tax,” even though no one who dies in America pays this tax. It is only the very richest of wealthy heirs who continue living who pay this tax on the gift they receive from daddy’s dynasty.
Now you can see why Donald Trump, in his eighties, is willing to work the presidency for just $1 per year. When you are the Donald’s age and have so much time and ego tied up in establishing vast real-estate holdings, your greatest concern is preserving the empire you have worked your life to build and that displays your ego, especially when your name is written all over it. Handing down the dynasty into which you were born and which you further developed is your last great ego accomplishment, and the complete repeal of the estate tax will assure that all of the Donald’s wealthy children inherit the entire empire unbroken, completely tax free.
Trump’s nemesis, The New York Times, calculates this revision in the tax code will save Trump’s heirs over a billion dollars, making this one reform the greatest Christmas gift the Donald could give those who will remain as an extension of his ego when he passes on. This tax savings clearly does nothing to create jobs. It merely assures that the family mansions remain occupied by the progeny of the Great One.
The original idea of the estate tax was to plow these tycoon estates back into the common ground so they don’t keep building up as ever-expanding empires for generations to come. Those who feel sorry for the top 1% should be in favor of this tax break. This one serves only to make sure the families of the banksters of Wall Street keep their ill-gotten gains. At best for all the rest, it may assure we retain a handful of jobs as gardeners, butlers, and maids to warm their milk and tie their ties.
If you believe the nonsense that repeal of the estate tax will save some family farms, ranches and small businesses, forget it. Only about 80 small businesses and family farms in the entire United States would pay any estate tax in 2017 under current law, and most of those would pay very little because of the large exemption. It is estimated that those 80 farms and businesses that get taxed as estates in any year pay less than 6% of the estate’s value in inheritance tax.
Some will say that it is unfair to go after the rich, but consider how many of them are banksters who made their wealth in unscrupulous manner and who were bailed out by you when they broke their banks. This tax is a final way to claw back those unscrupulous gains after you’ve allowed the banksters to enjoy them to the end of their lives. If fact, I think it is a fairly safe bet that most of the 1% have only climbed to that rarified height by employing some fairly unscrupulous tactics. (Not all; just most. Call me jaded.)
If the Donald really cared about the middle class, he’d eliminate of the manifold loopholes (such as grantor retained annuity trusts) that the rich use to dodge estate taxes altogether. Most large estates would have sufficient liquid assets to cover the tax, and existing law allows payments to be made at little interest over a period of fifteen years. (Remember, that estates often have large sources of income they can use to make these payments without having to sell off assets.)
Of course, the assets of major estates like the Donald’s — whether tied up in buildings or stocks or art — is wealth that has appreciated during the many years those assets were held, which means the rich have not paid any capital-gains tax on that added wealth before passing the gain down to their children. It is entirely untaxed wealth accumulation (if there is no estate tax) that gets passed along and continues to build tax free until the asset is finally sold.
That is one of the big reasons estate tax was created in 1916 — to stop this pass through of completely untaxed gains by people like the Rockerfellers and Vanderbilts, who owned vast amounts of stock in their own corporations. Wouldn’t it be ghastly if the top one percent of rich kids had to work for their money, instead of just inherit it all tax-free after it has gained in value for decades?
Given the minuscule number of people who will benefit from this Trump revision, you might think elimination of the estate tax does not amount to enough government revenue being lost to even be worth contemplating. But think again: current estate taxes, reduced as they already are, provide enough revenue each year to fund the entire Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease and Prevention and the EPA. O.K. so you’re one who hates the EPA. No problem, just substitute in the National Parks Service or some branch of government that you somewhat like.
You start talking about a billion dollars here and a billion dollars there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.
Trump tax plan cuts corporate income tax from 35% to 20%
I’m not opposed to eliminating corporate income tax on the basis that it is double taxation. (First, you tax the profits of the corporation as a corporation. Then you distribute the remainder of those profits to the stockholders and tax them again as personal income.) I also see that corporations are job-producing economic giants, so I can see an argument that says, “Let’s not suck all the fuel out of our economic engines. Tax it when it only when becomes personal income.”
HOWEVER, and it is a BIG “however” that must be writ large, that is not what will happen with this huge corporate tax cut. If Trump and his sly Goldman boys wanted to do that, their corporate tax cuts would come with restrictions that make certain the money is used for job creation. The problem I have with this huge new tax break is that it comes with no such provisions.
Here is what will really happen with almost all of that money, and we know if for a fact because of years of experience: stockholders have established a clear pattern in this country of making themselves rich through stock buybacks, which do nothing whatsoever to grow the business or to create jobs. That is what will happen with nearly all of these tax savings. Now that central banks are promising to suck money out of the system, which has fueled stock buybacks up to the present, the Trump Rescue team is coming in with a HYUUGE new source of money.
Corporate boards will spend their newfound tax savings either buying up other corporations and consolidating (which always kills jobs; it never creates jobs) or spend it on stock buybacks and dividends to shareholders. Here again, the top ten percent of the population benefit disproportionately over the rest of the populace.
Stock buybacks do two things simultaneously that directly benefit the rich board members who who are the ones who vote to do the buybacks: 1) they reduce the supply of shares on the market, bringing up the value of each remaining share; 2) they create a huge buyer (the corporation) that is more than willing to buy the board members’ own stocks at any escalating price in order to keep pushing the price up.
The Dom Perignon corks will be popping all over Wall Street if this one becomes law as it is the biggest boost the establishment has seen since capital-gains tax breaks were introduced. It’s a whole new realm for growth in income disparity.
Now, if Trump ever intended to help the middle class or Cohn and Munchkin ever intended to live up to their promises that there would be no tax cuts for the rich, then this tax cut would come with the clear restriction that no company benefiting from the lower corporate tax rate could engage in stock buybacks or use it to boost dividends. I’ll bet you haven’t heard ANY talk about that, and you never will because it was always Trump’s, Cohn’s, and Munchkin’s intention to give the greatest tax break in history to the supremely rich and cover it by saying, “This is to help businesses build jobs.” No, if you wanted it to build jobs, you’d put provisions in the tax code that require all of this tax benefit to be spent doing exactly that! Then it would actually juice the overall economy and not just the stock market. Not there!
Ask yourself one question: Why would an American board of stockholders, infamously known as they are for focusing on short-term quarterly gains, choose to reinvest billions of dollars saved on corporate taxes into creating new US factories with all of the regulations, liabilities, employment issues, construction issues, etc. that are involved in such expansion when they can just buy back the company’s stocks, making their own shares worth 20% more every year with no effort and no liability and no wait for a return on investment?
There will be NO jobs created from this kind of corporate tax cut unless it comes with restrictions, which it won’t because job creation has never been the real concern. What will be created, if some form of the Trump tax plan passes both houses, is more inflation in the speculation-driven stock market … and about a trillion dollars (some say much more) of additional federal debt to pay for this gift to the rich so they can continue to play in their casinos a little longer before the tops come down.
You now know that Republicans only talk like deficit hawks when they know they’re not the party that will be in charge of actually passing a budget. This year, when they finally control all branches of government, fiscal spending was higher than in any year in the history of the US government, other than 2009 when the stops were first pulled out to try to end the financial crisis. The deficit from their profligate spending this year was well over half a trillion dollars, and that was with the second-highest income-tax revenue in the history of the United States, which will be greatly reduced if some version of this plan makes it through both houses.
Surprise, surprise, Republicans are not truly deficit hawks at all! Their debt concerns were pure fraud. It was easy to sound like they cared about fiscal responsibility when they knew Democrats would be the ones deciding the budget. The Republican budget recently passed didn’t curb any of this spending, and the projected revenue increases of the present tax plans are based on dreams that were already disproven in the Reagan era, when even Reagan’s tax man has admitted the administration had to scramble to quickly raise taxes back up some because of the yawning debt that immediately opened up when revenue failed to grow due to tax cuts to the extent the administration had promised. These cuts go far beyond those, so the damage will be worse.
You might wonder how Republicans are managing to pass these huge deficits through the Senate while avoiding the filibuster. The answer is, they are scheduling all the individual tax breaks that bust the budget to end in 2025. In fact, people making less than $75,000 a year will see a tax increase by 2027. That allows tax revenue to go back up just as the new tax plan becomes ten years old, meeting the “reconciliation” process says there can be no filibuster unless a bill creates a greater deficit ten years down the road.
While there will still be massive deficits after 2027, even with the end of the middle-class tax breaks, the Republican choice to run a massive deficit this past year has enabled them to establish an easy deficit threshold to come back down to. While the individual tax breaks that slightly help the middle class end quickly, the corporate tax breaks and capital-gains breaks that primarily help the rich will continue forever.
Middle class bears the burdens of breaks for the rich under Trump’s tax plan
The middle class pays for these tax-breaks to the rich by having their mortgage interest deduction capped, as well as their property tax deduction and their deductions for state and local taxes. These caps or eliminations hit the fabulously wealthy, too, but the wealthy get all the new benefits to far more than compensate while the middle class does not.
A study by Congress’s nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation says the senate plan will raise taxes for 13.8 million moderate-income American households making between 75,000 a year and 200,000. After 2023, 22% of Americans will pay more in taxes (and none of those will be in the one-percent class).
While the Trump tax plan throws a little candy in the form of tax breaks for the middle class initially to smooth its passage, you get trumped bigly in the end.
Even with all this boost for the establishment, Trump was not satisfied with the tax benefits for the rich and asked that even the smoke-screen 39.6% top income-tax rate be brought down to 35%. Even the window dressing rate apparently appeared too hard on the rich.
Trump is such a good snake-oil salesman that he has actually managed to con the middle class into cheering him with slogans at rallies as he shafts them and their children to enrich himself and his children in the years to come. His legacy will be that his kids are much richer than they are now, and yours are not. Cheer him all you want, but that’s where this ends up.
Kept entirely out of the tax discussion are payroll taxes, such as Social Security and Medicare where the rich pay much less as a percentage of their total income because those taxes have low caps on them and do not apply at all to capital gains. The rich pay nothing on any income above a certain level.
Democrat or Republican politicians prefer not to talk about that. What they talk about, instead, is the need to someday cut the amount you are entitled to. (You are entitled because they promised when they took your money they would give it back to you as retirement, so it is YOUR money they have been holding in trust. You’re entitled to it, because they took it from you with a promise to give it back later.) Instead, of cutting back on what the middle class is entitled to (since it was all their money taken in trust), they should talk about removing the tax caps that protect the rich in order to end the entitlement problem. They won’t.
If Trump and Republicans wanted real tax reform, they would eliminate income tax entirely and replace it with a value-added tax (or better yet, a simple sales tax on the end consumer), which would allow them to end the tyranny of the IRS by cutting the agency’s size by 90%, as sales tax is such an easy tax to monitor and collect. THAT would be true reform. Instead, their much ballyhooed reforms still leave us with the most complicated tax system in the world!