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Bush names panel for tax overhaul

President Bush on Friday named a nine-member panel to prepare options for overhauling the U.S. tax code, a process that could rival Social Security restructuring as the dominant domestic policy issue of Bush's second term.

Bush appointed former U.S. Sens. Connie Mack, R-Fla., and John B. Breaux, D-La., to lead the commission. He gave the panel seven months to present its proposals to Treasury Secretary John Snow, who will distill findings into recommendations by year's end.

Administration officials said the panel would weigh the merits of many restructuring proposals, from revisions to the existing income tax system to more radical alternatives, such as flat taxes, sales taxes and value-added taxes.

In an executive order creating the commission, Bush said the panel should offer plans to "simplify" the tax code in a way that is fair, does not raise or lower the overall tax burden and that better promotes "long-run economic growth and job creation." He said that at least one option should be based on the current system and that the code should continue to encourage homeownership and charity.