Tax Vox’s Lump of Coal Award: The Worst Tax Ideas of 2009

As 2009 draws to an icy conclusion, Tax Vox is pleased to announce its Third Annual Lump of Coal Award for the worst tax ideas of the year. So many choices. So little time.

10.  The Roth Rollover. Let’s see, allowing people to turn their tax-deferred retirement savings into fully tax-free investments starting on Jan. 1 will be a long-term fiscal catastrophe. And in the short run, the up-front taxes people must pay to roll into a Roth could depress the stock market and damage the shaky recovery. What’s not to like?

9. The Bo-Tax and the Tanning Bed Tariff. This is what happens when you need money and won’t talk seriously about revenues.

8. Obama’s Middle-Class. This is a rerun from last year, but it is too good to leave out. The President thinks we will somehow reduce the deficit and fix the tax code without raising taxes by a dime for those poor souls making a quarter million dollars-a-year or less. Unfortunately, that’s 95 percent of us. Can’t wait to see how he does it.

7. Taxing the Rich. Why not let a handful of wealthy taxpayers finance all your new ideas. So let’s drive the top rate north of 45 percent, even though no one will really pay it. On the other hand, except for Barbra Streisand and those other Hollywood types, they are mostly Republicans anyway.

6. The Estate Tax. Now you see it. Now you don’t. Wait, there it is again. So what if nobody has any idea how to do estate planning anymore. On the other hand, Congress has had only eight years to fix this mess.

5. Tax-free health insurance. If Congress is serious about controling medical costs, taxing expensive employer-sponsored insurance is a good way to start. But the unions have made this a litmus test issue, and neither Obama nor congressional Democrats want to take them on.

4. California. It claims to be the fifth largest economy in the world but can’t pass a serious budget, and can’t govern itself. It is the poster child for dysfunctional state governments and fiscal crises everywhere

3. The homebuyer credit. Congress started the year by giving away $8,000 in subsidies to “first-time” homebuyers, as many as 74,000 of whom, it turned out, never quite got around to buying a house. Then, it extended the boondoggle to current owners who buy up. Bottom line: People who were already going to buy will get billions of dollars in government subsides. But you gotta make those real estate agents happy.

2. The Obama Tax Reform Panel. Not only will it fail to propose an improved tax code, it missed its own deadline. Nothing beats being both disappointing and late. “After the holidays,” the Obama people say. Does anybody care?

1. And the winner is, of course, the HAPPY Act. We’ve got a $1.5 trillion deficit and a Republican congressman named Thaddeus McCotter wants a $3,500 deduction for the cost of caring for our pets. Why? Because we love them.