Taxation – Federal Income Tax – Published Opinions of the New Tax Officialdom: A Review

President John F. Kennedy has appointed as his principal tax officials two men who have long been on record as proponents of tax reform. This comment is a collection and, to a small extent, an analysis of the opinions found in their published statements on taxation. Stanley S. Surrey, fifty-year-old Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy, first served with the Treasury Department in 1937. He was Tax Legislative Counsel from 1942 to 1947 and later served as Special Counsel to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Administration of the Revenue Laws. He also has served as Reporter of the American Law Institute Tax Project and as a member of the Shoup Mission, which revised Japan’s tax system after World War II. Mortimer Caplin, a forty-four-year-old professor at the University of Virginia Law School when he was appointed Commissioner of Internal Revenue, is a member of the Tax Advisory Group of the American Law Institute. The two men have remarkably similar views on the general situation of the federal income tax today and on most of the reforms they advocate. Both fear a present and impending emasculation of the Internal Revenue Code by popular disrespect and a gradual narrowing of its base. The two factors, in their opinion, reinforce one another. Widespread lack of confidence in the essential fairness of the tax makes it easy for Congress to create tax shelters for pressure groups. Tax shelters for pressure groups, and the complex code provisions which they require, create further dissatisfaction. A two-pronged attack on the problem is proposed: first, elimination of tax shelters by legislation, litigation, and stronger enforcement; second, a reduction in rates to eliminate unfairness and congressional sympathy for high-bracket taxpayers.