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trends and the US tax code

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
How many years does it take for a trend to be established for a phenomenon? Depends on the phenomenon. It's one thing to predict the lifespan of a subatomic particle and quite another to establish one for polar magnetic drift. Anyway, based on a number of criteria the trend of the US tax code has been for increased complexity. The fact it's becoming progressively more complex is unquestioned, but to what degree is its complexity growing?

One criterion is the number of pages on which the tax code is printed. Presidential aspirant Tim Pawlenty was quoted recently as characterizing the tax code as a "9000 page monstrosity". This didn't seem right to me, so I researched the topic.

What I found was surprising - forget about trying to divine some meaning from the tax code itself, trying to answer the simple question of the code's length in pages (as published in the Congressional Record) proved to be difficult.

A cursory Google search revealed many estimates from our esteemed Congressional representatives. Unfortunately all of them were from Republicans, presumably this is explained by the fact they're the only ones who can read. Or at least, count. They also seemed oddly fond of comparing the tax code to the Bible, as if they hold its length or complexity as some standard to be revered. Is the tax code their Bible? And how long is the Bible anyway? That's another question that's may be difficult to answer, but unlike the tax code, the Old Testament hasn't grown in millennia.

So, our esteemed Congressional representatives have characterized its length from between 2500 pages (Rob Portman (R-OH)) to "two and a half million" (Nick Smith (R-MI)). George Bush the younger quoted it as "a million pages" but that might be charitably interpreted as an exaggeration, considering Dave Hobson's (R-OH) curiously specific "1.3 million" pages.

Therefore, according to our legislative branch that imposes such misery upon us, estimates of the tax code's complexity, measured in pages of printed text, varies three orders of magnitude. That's disturbing.

The actual number, according to the US Government Printing Office, is 13,458 pages, but the part written by Congress adds another 3387, for a grand total of 16,845 pages. If you need a reference copy you can buy it from the GPO for about $1000. Mr Pawlenty needs to update his figures.

Even more disturbing is the trend, the subject of this post. This site projects the printed code to reach 100,000 pages within the next ten years. Extrapolating last year's GPO price to 2021 brings the cost of buying your own personal copy of the US tax code to $6845. Neglecting inflation that is, and presuming there remain sufficient number of trees from which paper can still be manufactured.

This is absurd. It's beyond absurd. The income tax has become unworkable, and unknowable. It's a monument to inefficiency, waste, and utter stupidity. Kill it.
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post #2 of 9
"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what is will be tomorrow."

-- James Madison, Federalist no. 62, February 27, 1788

Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.

(I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.)

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Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.

(I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.)

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post #3 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzguru View Post

"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what is will be tomorrow."

-- James Madison, Federalist no. 62, February 27, 1788

Exactly. People like the OP are worried about people screwing up the exact number of pages. He's not stopping to ask the real question: Why is it anymore than a few dozen (at most) pages?
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post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
I don't think you got my not-so-subtle point. There should be no tax on personal income. Not a dozen pages in the CFR, not one, not a word. Not a tax return form printed on a postcard. Nothing.

Frankly, there should be a Constitutional amendment repealing the sixteenth Amendment.

Mr Pawlenty made some brainless but popular observations, then ruined any hint at a solution by proposing lower rates:

Quote:
Under his proposal, the corporate income tax rate would be reduced to 15 percent from 35 percent. Individual federal income tax rates, which currently go as high as 35 percent, would be flattened to just two rates: 10 percent for the first $50,000 of income and 25 percent for income above that.

I'm unimpressed.

He's right about corporate rates, which need to be competitive with the rest of the world. Right now the US has the world's second-highest corporate tax rate. No wonder businesses are fleeing, or at least minimizing their exposure to this punishment.
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post #5 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by SDW2001 View Post

Exactly. People like the OP are worried about people screwing up the exact number of pages. He's not stopping to ask the real question: Why is it anymore than a few dozen (at most) pages?

What? That is exactly what he was asking from what I read.

Of course his post was followed on by saying the code needs to be repealed, but he did seem to be willing to say just what you were saying overall.
NoahJ
"It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err." - Mahatma Gandhi
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NoahJ
"It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err." - Mahatma Gandhi
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post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by john galt View Post

I don't think you got my not-so-subtle point. There should be no tax on personal income. Not a dozen pages in the CFR, not one, not a word. Not a tax return form printed on a postcard. Nothing.

Frankly, there should be a Constitutional amendment repealing the sixteenth Amendment.

Mr Pawlenty made some brainless but popular observations, then ruined any hint at a solution by proposing lower rates:



I'm unimpressed.

He's right about corporate rates, which need to be competitive with the rest of the world. Right now the US has the world's second-highest corporate tax rate. No wonder businesses are fleeing, or at least minimizing their exposure to this punishment.

Yeah, I misinterpreted for some reason. I agree there should be no tax on income.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NoahJ View Post

What? That is exactly what he was asking from what I read.

Of course his post was followed on by saying the code needs to be repealed, but he did seem to be willing to say just what you were saying overall.

Yeah, again..I misinterpreted. Long day.
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post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Raise income tax rates and you'll raise revenue, so goes Democrat logic. Too bad for them it's wrong:

Quote:
The 1993 law added two higher tax brackets and, importantly, raised the taxable portion of Social Security benefits to 85% from 50%. At just 8% of GDP, however, individual income tax receipts were surprisingly low during President Bill Clinton's first term.

There we go again. "Surprisingly..."

Quote:
Since the era of 70% tax rates, the U.S. income tax system has become far more "progressive." Congressional Budget Office estimates show that from 1979 to 2007 average income tax rates fell by 110% to minus 0.4% from 4.1% for the second-poorest quintile of taxpayers. Average tax rates fell by 56% for the middle quintile and 39% for the fourth, but only 8% at the top. Despite these massive tax cuts for the bottom 80%, overall federal revenues were the same 18.5% share of GDP in 2007 as they were in 1979 and individual tax revenues were nearly the same - 8.7% of GDP in 1979 versus 8.4% in 2007.

Higher income taxpayers paid a lower rate, but due to the aggregate effect of having earned more, paid more. The lowest income taxpayers went from paying little to paying nothing at all (minus 0.4% )

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As a result, the Joint Committee on Taxation recently reported that 51% of Americans no longer pay federal income tax.

How is that "fair"?

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In short, reductions in top tax rates under Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, and reductions in capital gains tax rates under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, not only "paid for themselves" but also provided enough extra revenue to finance negative income taxes for the bottom 40% and record-low income taxes at middle incomes.

Figures aside, the fact remains an income tax is a dumb idea. Tweaks here and there won't make it a smart one. The only thing that brings in more revenue is lower rates. Why not bring it all the way to zero... and find some other activity to tax.

Alan Reynolds: Why 70% Tax Rates Won't Work
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post #8 of 9
For some tax rates are a method to punish people that are too rich and for others it's a method to fund the government.
post #9 of 9
Stop taxing the rich so they can create jobs in India and China (or just not create jobs at all by demanding more productivity from fewer workers who are deathly afraid of complaining lest they end up unemployed)!

 

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” 
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“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” 
-Sagan
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