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Tampa Bay Times: Complex tax code hobbles growth

Friday, March 27, 2015

Beer. For more than 20 years, my family and I have brewed it, cooked with it and served it to thousands of happy customers in Tampa Bay and other selected areas of the United States.

Over the years, we have employed thousands of people in Tampa Bay, and paid millions of dollars in taxes — sales taxes, employment taxes, beer manufacturing taxes, etc.

Not one minute do I resent paying my fair share of state, local and federal taxes to support the city of Tampa and the state of Florida that have supported us, and this great nation that has afforded us amazing opportunities.

However, over the years the tax system has grown so complex that it now threatens to strangle our growth.

Our cumbersome tax code forces us to spend more and more time and money to just figure it out — that is in addition to the amount of taxes we actually pay. Also, many of this nation’s tax provisions are temporary or inconsistent, which makes for an uneven playing field and impacts our ability to plan long-term.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which is taking the lead in this fight. He recently reported that “it is estimated that individuals, families and employers spend over 6 billion hours and over $160 billion a year trying to understand a labyrinth of rules. Over the past decade, more than 4,400 changes have been made to the tax code, which averages to more than one per day.”

What more do our leaders in Washington need to hear before they take action?

If Florida wants to maintain its powerful economic recovery, its leaders in Washington need to step up in the fight for tax reform. Without it, businesses like mine will be forced to keep more cash out of the economy and on hold for possible future tax bills.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla, serves Florida just south of us in Sarasota and is a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. We ask all Floridians to join us in urging him to give us a voice as he works with Ryan to craft tax reform legislation that both parties can support and that will be signed by the president.

Our U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., serves on the Senate Finance Committee, which will take a leadership role on this issue in the Senate. We urge him to work with Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to shepherd meaningful tax reform through the Senate and to help garner Democratic support throughout the process.

Florida’s other leaders in Washington also have a role to play. Even though they do not serve directly on these committees, we ask that they work with committee members to garner the necessary votes to pass tax reform.

It is time to work together on comprehensive, meaningful tax reform. It is time to make real change and institute a flatter, broader and permanent tax code. It is time to put partisan differences aside and take action so that we can move forward for the good of Florida and the nation.

I think we can all drink to that.

John Doble is the co-founder of restaurant and brewery Tampa Bay Brewing Co., one of the oldest microbreweries in Florida.

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