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Congress lawmakers get month to save tax breaks

| Thursday, June 27, 2013, 8:27 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Senate's chief tax writers want to scrap the entire code and start from scratch in their push for tax reform, and on Thursday they gave lawmakers a month to make a case for preserving some of the $1.3 trillion in breaks on the books.

In a letter sent to all 98 of their colleagues, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, said they would take a “blank slate” approach to the tax code that assumes the removal of thousands of popular perks, including such sacrosanct policies as the deduction for mortgage interest, the child credit, and the lower tax rate for dividends and capital gains.

“This blank slate is not, of course, the end product, nor the end of the discussion,” Baucus and Hatch wrote. “Some of the special provisions serve important objectives. Indeed, we both believe that some existing tax expenditures should be preserved in some form.”

However, the letter states, “the tax code is also littered with preferences for special interests. We plan to operate from an assumption that all special provisions are out unless there is clear evidence that they: (1) help grow the economy, (2) make the tax code fairer, or (3) effectively promote other important policy objectives.”

The announcement puts Senate tax writers on the same page as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and clears the way for substantive work to begin on the first comprehensive rewrite of the tax code in nearly three decades.

“Today's announcement by Chairman Baucus and Sen. Hatch is welcome news for Americans who deserve a simpler, flatter, fairer tax code that leads to more jobs and higher wages,” Camp said in response to the letter.

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