U.S. tax code is longer than the Bible

At nearly 4 million words, the U.S. tax law is so thick and complicated that businesses and individuals spend more than 6 billion hours a year complying with filing requirements, according to a report Wednesday by an independent government watchdog.
By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER Published: January 10, 2013
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“This report confirms that the code is 10 times the size of the Bible with none of the good news,” said Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the House and Ways and Means Committee. “Our broken tax code has become a nightmare of loopholes and special interest provisions that create added complexities and costs for hardworking taxpayers and small businesses.”

“Comprehensive tax reform will make sure everyone is playing by the same rules and help businesses create more jobs and invest in their workers,” Camp said.

The general formula for tax reform is widely embraced on Capitol Hill: Eliminate or reduce some tax credits, exemptions and deductions and use the additional revenue to pay for lower income tax rates for everyone. There is, however, no consensus on which tax breaks to scale back.

That's because Americans like their credits, deductions and exemptions — the provisions that make the tax law so complicated in the first place. Would workers want to pay taxes on employer-provided health benefits or on contributions to their retirement plans? How would homeowners feel about losing the mortgage interest deduction?

Those are the three biggest tax breaks in the tax code, according to congressional estimates. Together, they are projected to save taxpayers nearly $450 billion this year.

In all, taxpayers will save about $1.1 trillion this year by taking advantage of tax breaks, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the official scorekeeper for Congress. That's almost as much as individuals will pay in income taxes.

To avoid angering constituents who rely on popular tax breaks, politicians prefer to endorse tax reform without getting into specifics. Instead, they say they want to reform the tax code by eliminating special interest “loopholes” that help only small groups of taxpayers.

Obama has repeatedly said he wants to eliminate tax breaks for hedge fund managers and companies that buy corporate jets.