15

There was a lot of discussion by mostly Republican politicians saying that the tax code is way too long and everyone struggles with doing their taxes and wouldn't it be great if the tax code were much simpler?

Some reports have the old length as long as 70,000 pages. Slate made a correction (in this April 2014 piece) that it is actually only about 2,600 pages long. I found the tax code itself here (uscode.house.gov) and printed on 8.5x11 paper it comes to 6,290 pages.

This was a big deal for a lot of conservative supporters of the bill.

So how long is it, now that the Republicans have passed H.R.1, An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018 (formerly the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act)?

  • 1
    Interesting question - that I've actually put to the GOP pols in my state. None of them know or even have a guess. Actually one suggested the actual code may be longer because instead of literally removing words and paragraphs, the HR 1 is 500+ pages of amendments to the code. The physical length of the resulting code (in pages) is not what "everyone" struggles with while doing their taxes. – BobE Dec 24 '17 at 20:25
  • 2
    Publication 17, IRS Instructions for individuals, comes in at 290 pages, and covers almost every practical circumstance an individual may face. If the Publication 17 for 2018 is significantly shorter........ well I'll be shocked. – BobE Dec 24 '17 at 20:31
  • On skeptics there's US tax code only 2,600 pages long? – Christian Dec 27 '17 at 23:19
  • @Christian - informative link at skeptics - it reinforces the question of what are people referring to when they say "the tax code". Because 95%+ taxpayers can obtain nearly everything they need in Pub 17 to guide them to filing their taxes correctly, that document is the most useful one. It's only 290 pages and written in narrative form - not legalese. – BobE Dec 28 '17 at 14:55
  • I have a hard copy of the Internal Revenue Code (current as of Summer 2017) sitting on my desk (it fills two paper back volumes). It is 5488 pages long exclusive of the publisher information, table of contents and the index. Obviously, the length in pages depends materially on typesetting choices such as font size, margin size, line spacing, etc., which are not established by law, however, so there is no definitive answer. – ohwilleke Dec 31 '17 at 20:27
2

That remains to be determined, since part of the huge challenge for the IRS is re-codifying the tax code with the new changes.

Now That The GOP Tax Bill Is Approved, The IRS Gets Busy – NPR

However, the expectation should probably be that there will be very, very little change to the length or complexity of the tax code, overall.

Why? Because, after years and years of preaching tax reform, what was passed was not any kind of overhaul, but a tax cut.

Because, really, reform would require closing loopholes and special favors that politicians were paid so handsomely to put into the system. There was a lot of talk about how high our corporate tax rate was, but then the counter-argument was "Yeah, but the effective rate is much, much lower. No one pays that because of the loopholes." Originally, the promise was to reform – close the complicated schemes and loopholes and have a much simpler, lower rate. In general, a simplification would tend to be more revenue neutral, which means a lot of pet perks would be sacrificed for overall equity and simplicity, neither of which are to the advantage of those who spent a lot of money to get those into place.

Loopholes and schemes were pretty much left in place, with just the rate being lowered.

However, looping back to the title of the question – we don't know how long the tax code is now, because it hasn't been updated yet. That's going to be a lengthy process.

  • A relevant article: fivethirtyeight.com/features/… – Avi Dec 27 '17 at 21:44
  • good citations - however, really what difference does it make if the "code" is 2,000 pages or 70,000 pages to the vast majority of taxpayers (venture to say 99%). The nexis between "everyone struggles" and the number of pages or words in the underlying law is just political hyperbole to Joe Sixpack – BobE Dec 28 '17 at 15:08
  • @BobE - Yeah, that's why I focus more on whether there were any underlying structural changes and reform, overall, vs fixating as much on the number of pages. Kind of like with the whole ACA meme - for something as complicated and encompassing as healthcare, that document better be at least as thick as a phone book. – PoloHoleSet Dec 28 '17 at 15:39
  • I have a hard copy of the Internal Revenue Code (current as of Summer 2017) sitting on my desk (it fills two paper back volumes). It is 5488 pages long exclusive of the table of contents, publisher information and the index. – ohwilleke Dec 31 '17 at 20:24
2

The final bill itself, as printed in the Conference Committee Report runs 185 pages, the last three of which amend a title of the United States Code other than the Internal Revenue Code (which is Title 26).

But, while most of those pages say: "add the following text here", other pages say things like "delete Internal Revenue Code Section 199", so not all of the 182 pages of the bill amending the Internal Revenue Code adds text, some of the bill deletes text or adds only a word or two here or there in redline fashion to a larger paragraph that is restated in redline form in which identifying where to put the amended language takes much more space than the new language itself. For example, there is this passage:

(4)(A) Subparagraph (A) of section 6655(g)(1), as amended by sections 12001 and 13001, is amend ed by striking ‘‘plus’’ at the end of clause (i), by redesignating clause (ii) as clause (iii), and by inserting after clause (i) the following new clause: ‘‘(ii) the tax imposed by section 59A, plus’’.

The new language only takes up half a line in the Internal Revenue Code but takes seven lines of bill text to describe. And there are lots and lots of and lots of provisions like that one. Also, there is lots of language about effective dates for each provision in the bill text that does not appear in the codified version.

There are a few big swaths of cuts related to municipal bonds, the domestic production rule and the AMT, but most of the provisions either add new language or tweak existing language. If I had to guess, after eyeballing it, I'd guess it would add something on the order of 60-85 pages to the tax code, net, in codified form.

  • Shorter answer: 'I'd guess it will be longer'. The more significant question (that the OP implied, but did not ask) is: Is it simpler? – BobE Dec 30 '17 at 3:16
  • @BobE It is definitely not simpler. – ohwilleke Dec 31 '17 at 1:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .