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Washington • The Senate Finance Committee launched closed-door bipartisan talks to reform the tax code on Thursday.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Finance Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., will lead the effort to bring legislation through the standard congressional process by the end of the year.

The goal is to simplify the code by eliminating deductions and exemptions, though there's expected to be a political struggle over what to do with that money.

Baucus and Hatch want to use it to lower rates, making reform revenue neutral, while President Barack Obama and many Democrats want to take at least some of it to pay down the national debt.

Members of the Finance Committee have talked repeatedly about revamping the tax code, which hasn't had a rewrite in 27 years. But much of that debate has been embroiled in high-level negotiations between the president and congressional leaders over raising the debt limit or responding to budget sequestration.

Now Hatch says it's time to let Congress work its will.

"We can hopefully move from just talking about tax reform and bring together consensus ideas to bring real reform to bear that American families and businesses rightly deserve," he said in a statement.

Hatch, the top Republican on the committee, said the tax system is overly complex and if simplified would boost the economy. That's the bipartisan goal, said Baucus.

"Tax reform can provide families certainty, spark economic growth, create jobs and make U.S. businesses more competitive," he said.

But to get there, the committee must come to a consensus on a whole host of complicated issues starting with which deductions and exemptions to eliminate. That conversation will take place on March 21, other topics of future closed-door sessions include small business taxes, charitable giving, and income-based taxes.

The House Ways and Means Committee has also launched a similar effort with the hopes of producing legislation this year.

mcanham@sltrib.comTwitter: @mattcanham

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