While starry-eyed optimists such as Larry Kudlow see improving odds for tax reform this year, there are still plenty of skeptics. Budget expert Stan Collender thinks that it’s going to take a long time for Washington to get anywhere on taxes, citing these five reasons:
1. It's taken more than six months for the “Big Six” policymakers leading the effort to agree on even general terms for tax reform — “and the broad principles will be the easy part.”
2. The 535 members of Congress will likely take much longer, with debate that lasts for many months as lawmakers seek input. Collender cites the 1986 tax overhaul, which took almost three years of legislative wrangling.
3. Congress still needs to produce a 2018 budget if it’s going to use the reconciliation process to pass the bill. As House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said in July, “no budget, no tax reform.”
4. A new tax bill will require a set of rules to guide companies and individuals through the transition. Collender says that creating those rules took nearly a year during the 1986 revamp.
5. New media technologies make it harder to reach consensus. Every point of contention will be instantaneously broadcast on Twitter and cable news, amplifying disagreements while providing interest groups with opportunities to quickly rally their troops in support or opposition.
Given these constraints, how long will tax reform take? Collender says that it could be years — and it’s “very possible that it may not happen at all.”