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taxes and the IRS tax code

"How Long is It?"
(The United States tax code)

not as big as the US Tax Code



Every year about this time—give or take an extension—most of us can look forward to spending some quality time with a pile of tax forms and instructions. If it helps, you could think of your US federal income taxes as being like one of the story problems you may have enjoyed back in high school math class...a particularly long story problem.

If you're not one of the three people in your high school who actually did enjoy story problems, this might not be any great comfort, but either way, it does lead one to wonder, "just how long is it?"

You wouldn't be the only one wondering. The length of the federal income tax code (also known as “Title 26” of the United States Code) has itself been the subject of more than a few political speeches by our own Congressional representatives, theoretically the very people responsible for the illustrious Title 26. They had this to say about the prodigious size of the US Tax Code:

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(Note that all of the following quotes were extracted from the representatives' official press releases and statements as found on www.house.gov)


U.S. Representative John Hostettler (R-IN)

"the Internal Revenue Code and regulations add up to one million words and is nearly seven times the length of the Bible"

U.S. Representative Rob Portman (R-OH)

"The income tax code and its associated regulations contain almost 5.6 million words -- seven times as many words as the Bible. Taxpayers now spend about 5.4 billion hours a year trying to comply with 2,500 pages of tax laws...."

U.S. Representative J.C. Watts, Jr. (R-OK)

"The heart of IRS abuse lies in the existing tax code. Most of the folks who work for the IRS are good people just trying to do their job, but they are caught in a bad, overextended tax system. At 3,458 pages, twice the length of the Bible, it's impossible for the average taxpayer to know, understand, and accurately apply its provisions. The length is twice that of the Bible! Even tax experts cannot do so reliably."

U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus (R-AL)

"With its 6,000 pages and 500 million words, the complexity of our tax code is the prime source of frustration and anger felt by millions of Americans toward their government."

U.S. Representative Bill Archer (R-TX)

"The Internal Revenue Code and regulations now come in at one million words and 9000 pages."

U.S. Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO)

"The Bible, the guide of our lives, is 1,291 pages and contains 774,746 words. But the Tax Code and its regulations which are referred to by some as, 'a person's worst nightmare come true' is 9,471 pages and over 7 million words."

U.S. Representative Vito Fossella (R-NY)

"the tax code runs 17,000 pages and contains a mind-boggling 5.5 million words. By way of comparison, War and Peace is only 1,444 pages and the Bible checks in at 1,291 pages."

U.S. Representative Jim DeMint (R-SC)

"The federal tax code with its 44,000 pages, 5.5 million words, and 721 different forms is a patchwork maze of complexity and a testament to confusion over common sense."

U.S. Representative Walter Jones (R-NC)

"The IRS tax code is 44,000 pages and growing"

U.S. Representative Bobby Jindal (R-LA)

"The current tax code is almost 60,000 pages, longer than the Bible"

U.S. Representative Dave Hobson (R-OH)

"the current tax code, which at 1.3 million pages is twice the length of Tolstoy's War and Peace"

U.S. Representative Nick Smith (R-MI)

"the federal tax code has about four times as many words as the bible. Accompanying the law are a staggering two-and-a-half million pages of regulations"

...and President George W. Bush (courtesy of Professor Paul Caron of the TaxProf Blog)

"The tax code is a complicated mess. You realize, it's a million pages long."




So, depending on whom you ask, our elected representatives are of the opinion that this particular section of the United States Code is somewhere between 2,500 and 2,500,000 pages long.

But one thing they do know for sure, at least if they're members of the Republican Party, is that the US tax code is longer than the Bible. Personally, I think the only way we're ever going to see that reversed is if Congress decides to enact its own official version of the Bible. If that happens, all bets are off.



By the way, if you go to the US Government Printing Office ( www.gpo.gov ), you can order a complete set of Title 26 of the US Code of Federal Regulations (that's the part written by the IRS), all twenty volumes of it, at the bargain price of $974, shipping included.

According to the US Government Printing Office, it's 13,458 pages in total. The full text of Title 26 of the United States Code (the part written by Congress--available for an additional $179) is a mere 3,387 printed pages, bringing the adjusted gross page count to 16,845.

The number of words has been left as an exercise for the student.

Counting the pages
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