Analysis: GOP tax law increased complexity of tax code

The GOP tax bill enacted last year was touted as a way to simplify the tax code but has ended up making it more complex with an increased number of overall tax breaks, according to a new report.

The nonpartisan budget watchdog group Peter G. Peterson Foundation found in an analysis released this week that the number of tax expenditures ticked up from 216 before the law was enacted to 223 after.


The analysis cited figures from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, which publishes a list of “tax expenditures” and their cost each year.

In the tax code, there are broad laws that create tax revenues, such as income taxes and corporate classification. Then there are exceptions, such as deductions and credits, that reduce that overall amount of revenue, called tax expenditures.

Many of the carveouts, such as the mortgage interest deduction and the child tax credit, are popular and have intentional policy goals.

But the increase in the number of tax expenditures indicates that the tax code increased in complexity following the law’s passage, running counter to a central Republican message about simplifying the tax code.

It’s not the first time the GOP has had trouble with that message.

For years, Republican leaders had promised that a tax code overhaul would allow people to file their taxes on a form the size of a postcard. When the new law went through, however, officials were only able to fit the form on smaller paper by creating additional paperwork and leaving off several popular deductions.

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