Uncle Sam’s tax code five times longer than the Bible
by Paul Stanley
Newscast Media WASHINGTON, D.C.—Just in case you were wondering, the Internal Revenue Service tax code dwarfs the Bible in terms of the number of words used and a U.S. Congressman is picking up where others have left off in trying to simplify the rules that tell taxpayers how much they own Uncle Sam each year.
“This report confirms that the code is 10 times the size of the Bible with none of the good news,” said Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the House and Ways and Means Committee. “Our broken tax code has become a nightmare of loopholes and special interest provisions that create added complexities and costs for hardworking taxpayers and small businesses.”
“Comprehensive tax reform will make sure everyone is playing by the same rules and help businesses create more jobs and invest in their workers,” Camp said. Depending on the version used there are approximately 774,746 words in the (King James) Bible. However, there are over 4 million words in the tax code that tax lawyers, accountants and taxpayers refer to when they prepare their annual tax return.
To make matters a little more complicated, Congress has made almost 5,000 changes since 2001, or an average of more than one per day since. Although Camp was a little off in his estimate, taxpayers do have a professional advocate whose job it is to make filing their return a little easier.
Nina Olson of the Taxpayer Advocate Service, a nationwide organization of about 2,000 taxpayer advocates, is responsible for submitting two annual reports to Congress and she agrees the code can overwhelm even the more ardent tax professional.
Part of Olson’s job is to assist taxpayers file accurate returns and wade through the volume of rules and regulations.
“If tax compliance were an industry, it would be one of the largest in the United States,” Olson wrote in one of her reports.
“On one hand, taxpayers who honestly seek to comply with the law often make inadvertent errors, causing them to either overpay their tax or become subject to IRS enforcement action for mistaken underpayments,” she said. “On the other hand, sophisticated taxpayers often find loopholes that enable them to reduce or eliminate their tax liabilities.”
And while Camp says he is determined to reform the tax code in 2013, the last time any major changes were made was 1986.
Both Democrats and Republicans consistently talk about tax reform and the more common subjects include eliminating or reducing mortgage and charitable deductions. According to congressional estimates, the most common deductions save taxpayers around $450 billion per year.
The problem, says Olson, is one person’s loophole actually benefits another and that if you eliminate one or more common deductions, it most likely won’t raise enough revenue to make the change worthwhile.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to say to taxpayers, that the special interests are us. It’s not just oil and gas or whatever you want to point your finger at,” she told The Associated Press. “That’s not where the money is.”