In another example of Congress kicking the can down the road, lawmakers approved a one-year extension of a sales-tax deduction on federal income-tax returns.
The extension gives some relief to about 28 percent of Washington taxpayers who itemize their tax return and claim an average deduction of $600, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The certainty is fleeting considering that about this time next year we’ll be waiting to find out if Congress will grant another extension on the deduction — something Congress has done each year since 2004.
A Seattle Times editorial urged lawmakers to keep the deduction going. Taxpayers in Washington benefit from the deduction because we are one of eight states in the nation that do not collect state income tax. The federal government allows people who pay state income tax to deduct it on their federal tax return. Washington residents deserve a break, too, right?
Making the deduction permanent, however, would make much more sense than year after year of extensions. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has pushed several bills to do so, but Congress hasn’t passed any.
The sales-tax-deduction issue raises some broader questions about tax policy. One reason the sales-tax deduction comes up for a vote each year is because Congress wants to overhaul the entire tax system. The question is, when is Congress going to reform the tax code? A Seattle Times reader, in response to our sales-tax deduction editorial, wrote to us suggesting that instead of focusing on a sales-tax deduction, which less than one-third of Washington taxpayers take advantage of, why not talk about establishing a state income tax and then everyone would get to take a deduction? That is not the way to solve tax policy, but does highlight the need for a comprehensive look at taxes.
Taxes are tedious, but we’re stuck with them. Creating a simpler, fairer and streamlined federal tax policy would make sense. But, so would a Congress that passes more laws instead of pushing real action down the line.