PolitiFact: Blunt correct, vast tax code keeps getting bigger

Has tax code really doubled in 32 years? We decided to see if Blunt is right.

His office pointed us to an article from the Tax Foundation, which defines itself as an independent, nonprofit think tank. .

“In 1955, the Internal Revenue Code stood at 409,000 words. Since then, it has grown to a total of 2.4 million words: almost six times as long as it was in 1955 and almost twice as long as in 1985,” the website said.

The Internal Revenue Code is a list of regulations that govern how taxes are submitted and collected.

However, the Tax Foundation also points out that tax code isn’t the only thing Americans must deal with to complete their taxes. It talks about the 7.7 million words of tax regulations from the IRS and the 60,000 pages of tax-related case law.

If you download the Internal Revenue Code from the United States Code, the file has 6,550 pages. Blunt definitely got it right that the code is long, but has it doubled since 1985?

“Since it was last reformed in 1986, there have been thousands of additions and changes to the Tax Code over the last 30 years,” said Caroline Bruckner, the Managing Director of the Kogod Tax Policy Center at American University.

A report from the Taxpayer Advocate Service to Congress in 2008 noted the word count of tax code had grown from 1.395 million words in 2001 to 3.7 million words when the report was done, 265 percent growth in seven years. “The Code has grown so long that it has become challenging even to figure out how long it is,” the report said.

That report said the code’s length has more than tripled since 1975. A similar report published in 2012 by the Taxpayer Advocate Service noted 4 million words at the time of the report. That is a 286 percent growth in word count from the 2001 figure.

Why does it grow? Bruckner pointed to continual changes Congress passes to raise revenue and address problems as well as changes the IRS publishes to tax rules yearly to factor in inflation.

“Our tax laws are not static; and, in fact, when they are, they tend to create more problems than not for taxpayers. That’s one reason why Congress adjusts the Tax Code so often,” she said.

Blunt said in an article for the Kansas City Star, “Outdated tax policies are stifling our economy and taking money out of the pockets of hardworking Missourians,”

Some view the volume of the tax code as the problem, but others think it is the complexity of the code and the process of collecting taxes. Bruckner believes there are ways to streamline the taxation process.

“The majority of adults in the U.S. now have a smartphone. Who cares how long the tax code is if you could just pay your taxes using an app that tracks your expenses, deductions and credits for you? The challenge is how do we do that without compromising taxpayer privacy and security concerns,” she said.

The report from the Taxpayer Advocate Service also discusses how many hours it takes Americans to complete their taxes and how much money it costs to hire people to assist.

Our ruling

Blunt said the tax code has nearly doubled since 1985. Government and independent reports suggest the number of words used in the tax grown has grown even more than that.

We rate this claim True.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Homepage