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The ever-growing tax code, or why we talk about tax reform

The good news from CCH's latest look at the U.S. tax code is that the number of pages in the tax software and publisher's Standard Federal Tax Reporter is still less than 74,000 ... barely.

Each year CCH provides a visual representation of the size of its publication, which includes federal tax law, legislation, Internal Revenue Service regulations and explanations by the company's experts to help interpret and comply with the laws.

When the Internal Revenue Code as we know it originated in 1913, it took 400 pages.

But now, 100 years later, the CCH publication needs 73,954 pages to help us unravel the tax tangle.

CCH_Federal-tax-law-growth_2013Click for a larger version.

And 73,954 is this week's By the Numbers figure.

Tallying Title 26: Just how big is the tax code itself? No one really seems to know.

Speeches by members of Congress over the years have offered various, but in true political fashion vague descriptions of the tax code's size. The Bible is invoked many times as a comparison work, which is sort of fitting since doing taxes often results in folks asking for divine help.

If you want to count the words yourself, you can at the downloadable tax code page provided by the House of Representatives.

To see how we got here, check out Tax Analysts' Tax History Museum. The IRS also offers a brief history of its existence.

As for where we go now with tax law, the chairs of the House and Senate tax-writing committees are conducting a national tour seeking tax reform suggestions from individuals and businesses that have to deal with the laws in real life. Their first stop last week was in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

The good thing about the tour, other than seeking input from you and me, is that it keeps the lawmakers out their offices, preventing them from adding to our ever-growing tax code!

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