Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on Tax Reform

May 25, 1985

My fellow Americans:

If you were tuned in to the radio one Saturday in the middle of April, you may have heard me speak about one of the most compelling issues of our time—tax simplification.

It was April 13th then, and I'm sure many of you were approaching those final moments before your tax forms were due with a rising sense of frustration, even anger. Nobody's ever going to enjoy paying taxes; it just isn't human nature. But I also know that the American people wouldn't find the whole process so aggravating if they didn't feel our tax system was shot through with unfairness, inequality, and waste.

The American people are always willing, even eager, to do their duty. But you quite naturally resent it when you see others shirking theirs. It rankles to know that your tax rates are so high because others who can afford high-priced lawyers and tax consultants are able to manipulate the system to avoid paying their fair share. And it simply adds insult to injury when, on top of a large tax bill to the IRS, you have to pay a professional to tell you how much you owe.

The United States tax code is so mammoth, so incredibly complex that even experts can't agree on what it says. We've seen the damage an unfair tax system can do to our economy, our pocketbooks, our faith in American justice, and to our confidence in government institutions.

Well, that's all going to change. Next Tuesday we'll announce an historic change in the tax laws to remove the dark cloud of unfairness from our tax system. We're going to overhaul the whole rickety, jerry-rigged tax code and come out with a newer, sleeker model that will not only be fairer and simpler but will significantly reduce taxes for the majority of all Americans.

Starting today we're declaring the 1040 tax form an endangered species. Our plan is to make the paying of your taxes so easy that many Americans won't even have to fill out a form. We're going to do away with the inequities and the economically unjustifiable tax breaks, things like deductions for windmills and so-called educational cruises on luxury ocean liners.

By closing such loopholes, we'll be able to lower taxes and begin to flatten the present steeply rising system of tax brackets so that you can keep more of each additional dollar you earn. We want to knock down the barriers on the road to success so that all Americans can go as far as their hard work, skill, imagination, and creativity will take them. Closing wasteful business loopholes will also allow us to lower tax rates on America's businesses and entrepreneurs.

We stand today on the threshold of a new technological age that is already beginning to revolutionize our lives for the better and open the way to a future of almost unlimited possibility. By lowering rates, we can unleash an entrepreneurial explosion of business formation, job growth, and technological innovation that will rival even our most optimistic dreams. Our plan will also recognize the central role of the American family in preserving and protecting our nation's values. Raising a family has always involved hardship and sacrifice along with the love and the joy. But for most of these last four decades, the Government hasn't been making it any easier.

Since 1948 the personal exemption, which allows breadwinners to deduct a certain amount from their taxable income for every man, woman, and child who is dependent on them, has dwindled to a mere fraction of its original value. The result—a tax increase of immense proportions that struck directly at the pocketbook of America's families. In effect, it's been families that have borne the burden of the explosive growth in government and domestic spending these last four decades.

Well, it's time families got a little help, and that's what we propose to do. By greatly expanding the personal exemption, raising the standard deduction, lowering rates, and retaining the home mortgage interest deduction on principal residences, we're going to make it a lot easier for struggling lower-income households and for the working-poor families to climb up the ladder of success.

This must be a priority of a profamily, pro-opportunity society. The timid, the cynical, and the special interests will combine to say that what we want—fairness, hope, and opportunity—is impossible. Well, they'll be wrong; they've been wrong so many times in these last 4 1/2 years. Nothing can stop America when it hears the call to justice. No one can stop America from doing what it knows is right.

On Tuesday night I will be announcing the details of this historic tax package on nationwide TV. I hope you'll tune in and listen to what I have to say. This could be the single most important step we'll take in this decade to fulfill the American dream of hope and opportunity for us and for future generations.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on Tax Reform Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives