HAPPY Days or, Should Pets Be Tax Deductible?


From Ed Morrissey of Hotair.com and American Issues Project comes news of a possible (and horrifying) tax exemption:

Earlier this week, I wrote about a new effort from a well-known conservative Congressman who wants to create a tax deduction for pet expenses. It gives an entirely new and ridiculous meaning to the phrase "pet project," and its name—the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years ("HAPPY") Act— doesn't help make it sound any more serious. The bill proposes to reduce taxes to those taxpayers who have pets, and it's explicitly designed to encourage pet adoption, yet another example of social engineering by the federal government.

Consider the enforcement and verification implications of the HAPPY Act. The IRS will have to create new forms, which will then have to be reviewed by IRS auditors. Taxpayers will have to keep entirely new categories of records, including pet identification. Will we have to issue Social Security numbers for Spot and Whiskers, too? Costs of compliance will rise even further—and thanks to the demand that tax breaks will create, costs of pet supplies and veterinary services will also increase.

Morrissey notes that these sorts of idiotic and endlessly compounded exemptions show

the difficulty of eliminating the present tax code and replacing it with something simpler. Too many people have stakes in the existing deductions. Homeowners will shriek if the mortgage interest deduction disappears, and parents will burn the phone lines if Congress eliminates their deductions for their offspring. The more deductions that get offered, the more stakeholders they create in the status quo. And let's not forget that tax preparation industry, which would stand to lose hundreds of billions in a simplified system.

However, if those stakeholders were the only problem, Congress could probably sell an overhaul. As much as those deductions mean to taxpayers, a simplified system would mean more—in efficiency, in economic growth, and most importantly in individual liberty. An IRS in such a system would work as a simple collection agency, not an invasive, pervasive presence in our lives, giving the government access to information it should have no business accessing. Taxpayers would certainly want that.

Unfortunately, as the HAPPY Act and the other deductions show, Congress is the biggest obstacle to real reform. The existing tax code perfectly suits their purposes. It gives them the power to tinker with the choices made by Americans, from pet ownership to home ownership, and from procreation to fishing tackle. It also gives Congress an inordinate amount of power to pick winners and losers in the marketplace through tax incentives and penalties. In short, the existing tax code gives Congress far too much power for a legislature in a free society.

Whole col here.

Didn't late imperial Rome do stuff like this?