Airline bags fly tax-free
Schedule M errors cropping up

The ever-growing tax code

This weekend we got a lot of tax statements. I guess that means it's time for me to at least think about filing our 1040 and see if I can attain what has been an elusive goal: getting it done well before April 15.

I'm hopeful, but realistic. Life gets in the way. I make the most of my income during tax season, which means I don't have a lot of time to spend on reporting those earnings to Uncle Sam.

And Congress sure doesn't help. Folks on Capitol Hill can't leave well enough, or too often when we're talking taxes, bad enough, alone!

Every year they view the Internal Revenue Code as their personal playground, tweaking current tax laws and adding new ones, which means it takes us longer to fulfill our annual tax-filing obligations.

I'm working on a post about the new and altered tax provisions that could affect your 2009 tax filing. I'll get that up in a day or so.

In the meantime, here's a visual representation of what I'm talking about.


As you can see from this lovely graphic from the folks at CCH, interpreting the tax code gets tougher every year.

Back when our current income tax code was put into place, CCH's Standard Federal Tax Reporter needed 400 pages to examine the legislative, administrative and judicial aspects of the laws.

That number held pretty steady until 1945, when it ballooned to 8,200 pages.

By 1969, the pages of explanation had doubled. 

This year, the tax publishing company needed 71,684 pages to tell us all about our tax laws. As the hubby says, that's just crazy!

Tax code history: Ever mindful of its origins, the IRS provides a brief history of the Internal Revenue Code.

The key date was 1913, when Wyoming ratified the 16th Amendment, providing the three-quarter majority of states necessary to amend the Constitution and enact an income tax. Yes, tax protesters, it happened, so don't waste your time haranguing me.

That also was the year the Form 1040 was born. The circa 1913 version was used for our great-grandparents to comply with the 1 percent tax on net personal incomes above $3,000. A 6 percent surtax (or "super tax" per the form) was levied on incomes of more than $500,000.

The 1913 document was a four-page form, with taxpayer (and preparer) information collected on the first three.

Today's Form 1040 fills just two pages, although there's precious little space between the lines on the 2009 version. (Plus, the IRS just added a cover sheet detailing the new Haiti donation deduction options.)

The big size difference is in the instructions.

In 1913, directions on completing the form were included as part of the form and took up just one page. Today's 1040 instruction booklet is a separate document, filling up 174 pages.

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