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Sizing Up the Tax Code

Saturday April 19th, 2014   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 3:32pm PDT   •  

From Wolters Kluwer, the publishers of the CCH Standard Tax Reporter, comes the answer to the perennial question: how long is the U.S. tax code?


For the 2013 tax year (the one for which you either needed to file to pay your federal income taxes or to file for an extension on April 15, 2014), it takes 73,954 pages of material that is specifically marketed to explain the U.S. federal income tax code to the people who need to know it best: tax professionals.

Political Calculations looks at the growth trend for the number of pages needed to explain the U.S. tax code during President Obama’s tenure in office:

In President Obama’s first two years in office, when his political party also controlled both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and used its control to impose massive new taxes on the American people like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the U.S. tax code grew to be 71,684 pages long, which works out to be an average exponential rate of 3.0% per year.

If it had been allowed to continue growing at that rate, the U.S. tax code would effectively double in length every 24 years.

After 2010 however, the Democratic Party lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives, with one of the outcomes of that loss being that the U.S. federal tax code has grown much more slowly in all the years since.

From 2010 to 2013, we find that the growth of the U.S. federal tax code has decelerated to grow at just a third of the rate that it did when the Democratic Party controlled the U.S. Congress and the White House. The tax code has grown at an exponential rate of just 1.0% per year since 2010, a pace that would have it double in size every 72 years.

Altogether, the U.S. federal tax code has grown at an average exponential rate of 1.8% per year since 2008.

Meanwhile, from 2009 through 2013, federal spending has increased at an average annual rate of 3.0% per year, while the total national debt has risen at an average annual rate of 10.8% per year.

None of those figures should be regarded as achievements….

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April 2014