By Annette Sweeney

It seems that the country is more politically divided than ever. We have two presidential candidates that have high disapproval ratings and campaign events where chaos has become the norm. Even in these divided times, a majority of Americans can support certain policies, namely the need for comprehensive tax reform. This is a necessary policy change that is long overdue and is something our presidential candidates should endorse to begin to bring the country back together.

I proudly represented the people of Iowa in the state Legislature for four years and I heard many complaints about our outdated tax system. Throughout the year, taxes are of major concern for Iowans; farmers file on March 1, individuals on April 15, and small business owners pay taxes every quarter. This is just one of the many examples of how unnecessarily confusing the tax code is. We should not have to endure this year after year when our elected officials in Washington have the ability to reduce rates and simplify the way we are taxed.

Like the people across Iowa, and the country for that matter, I share the frustrations with our current arcane code. Not only did I serve in the Legislature, but I also own a farm with my husband that has been in my family for three generations. We work hard to grow quality corn and soybeans and raise healthy cattle in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way. Unfortunately, navigating the cumbersome tax code takes time away from our livelihood.

As a former public servant, I understand the necessity for collecting taxes. But creating a fairer and simpler tax code should be a priority. I encourage Congress to listen to Americans about ways to improve our tax code.

Americans can prosper when they are afforded the freedom to work hard, but not when the current system is at odds with creating personal success. Members of Congress need to start listening to small business owners about how common sense reforms like cash-flow accounting can help their business grow, lowering rates and encouraging savings and investment to protect their retirements, and how the tax code is just too complicated.

If Congress were to listen to me, one piece of advice I would give is repeal the death tax. The death tax threatens the ability for my husband and myself to pass along everything my family has built over generations to my two sons. The death tax is a constant fear in our family, one that I faced head on when my father died unexpectedly. For 15 years my family paid the IRS to keep the farm my father built and already paid his taxes on. With the extra loss of income every year and low commodity prices, it was difficult to keep the farm in the family, and the prospect of not being able to pass the farm on to my sons is one of the worst parts of the current tax code that should be repealed.

Tax reform is a bipartisan issue that nearly everyone, Democrat and Republican, can support. Our current tax system is 30 years old and the world has changed dramatically since it was enacted. We need political leaders to listen to the American people and embrace a comprehensive tax reform solution that simplifies and modernizes the code. I hope that whomever is elected president makes it an integral part their first 100 days in the White House.

Annette Sweeney is a third-generation family farmer in North central Iowa and a former member of the Iowa House of Representatives.

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