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Tax code 48 times as long as 'War and Peace'

This complex set of rules changes too often.

By Jeff Schnepper Jan 16, 2010 2:45PM

He told the truth.


Last October, in a speech at the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) Governance Conference, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman uttered the words, “the complexity of the Tax Code may make your eyes glaze over.”


Tell it like it is, Commish!


But this is nothing new, sir. Had you opened your eyes and actually read the Tax Code, you’d probably be blind by now. You surely would be confused and concerned.


I guess you never noticed that the set of rules you were hired to enforce has grown to a whopping 70,320-page, 25-volume beast with 3.7 million words. The epic book War and Peace has 1,444 pages and 660,000 words, while the Bible contains 1,291 pages and 774,746 words.


We’ve had more than 43 major tax law changes in the past 46 years. Since 1986, more than 14,000 amendments have been made to the Tax Code -- that’s about three for each working day.

They’re gonna change it again this year. Bet on it.


Here are some numbers directly from the IRS, the organization you run. The average taxpayer who files a Form 1040 needs 32.7 hours to get it done. Add a single rental property or a Schedule C for a business and the hours jump to 57.1.


We spend 7.6 billion hours each year complying with the tax code -- just to figure out what we owe. That’s more hours than are used to build every car, van, truck, and airplane manufactured in America. And that’s just the time.

Your boss, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, must have had vision problems as well. His taxes were found to be underpaid in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. I guess nobody looked at 2006?


In any case, since neither you nor your boss can understand the rules, I hope you’ll remember that when one of my readers gets audited....


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