How Many Pages Is the Tax Code (& How Long Does It Take to Read It)
“Oh, January first. Better get started on those taxes, Neddy.” – Ned Flanders, The Simpsons.
According to the Public Law 117-154(06/23/2022), the U.S. Tax Code is 6,871 pages. When you include the federal tax regulations and the official tax guidance, the number of pages raises to approximately 75,000. This will take an average reader about 14 weeks to finish.
There has been a lot of conflicting information on the number of pages in the U.S. Tax Code. But whatever may be the case, as an individual, a professional, or a business person in the U.S., it is essential to be aware of what these codes stipulate because the IRS can impose penalties on you for failure to comply intentionally or not.
Ned Flanders does have a point. If you want to get a running start on filing your taxes before your accountant’s desk isn’t visible from the pile of paperwork that consumes it, you can file as early as January 27. You certainly don’t want to wait days before April 15 to attempt to mail them to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
This article will discuss what the U.S. Tax Code is, the history of taxes, how long it will take to read the Tax Code, and what your taxes pay for.
What is the U.S. Tax Code?
The U.S. Tax Code, also known as the Internal Revenue Code, is the official body of law guiding all federal tax laws, enacted in Title 26 of the United States Code by the U.S. Congress.
The law codifies all federal tax laws with sections that include income taxes, estate and gift taxes, employment taxes, miscellaneous excise taxes, alcohol, tobacco, and certain other excise taxes.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the body responsible for implementing the tax laws through their Treasury regulations and revenue rulings.
The Tax Code was originally compiled in 1939 and later overhauled in 1954 and 1986.
History of Taxes
According to various sources like the Bible, the first recorded organized taxation was around 3000 B.C. Genesis 47 vs. 26 has this record of taxation by Joseph under Pharoah’s authority where he established a law that a fifth of their produce grown on the land belongs to Pharoah.
During Greek civilization, tax practice continued to develop. In Ancient Greece, officials first created tariffs on imported goods because they were easier to tax. Then, to raise additional funds in times of war, they would impose temporary taxes on property to fund soldiers. Later, they extended the taxes to real assets and real estate transactions.
In the Roman age and through medieval European history, other forms of taxes that included inheritance, property, and consumer goods were imposed on the people. They were mostly used to fund or provoke wars.
During the Middle Ages, the ancient taxes gave way to indirect taxes on transit and market fees with tax obligations on certain foods and beverages borne by consumers, producers, and merchants.
In the later middle ages, cities like German and Italian cities introduced indirect taxes like head taxes for the poor and net-worth taxes for the rich.
Under the authority of a centralized government in China, the T’ang and Song Dynasties imposed proper taxes on the populace by employing a systematic census record to track and levy the taxes. Later, the Mongol Empire controlling much of Asia around 1200, created a tax policy on the large-scale production of certain goods.
In the U.S., the issue of taxation became the main cause of the revolutionary war. The British Empire taxed the American colonies until they freed themselves from British rule. The House of Representatives organizes the federal tax system based on the recommendations of the executive.
In the 20th Century in the U.S., a different taxation policy was created. First, the income tax was introduced. Prior to that, all revenue came from excise taxes and tariffs. However, after the Civil War, tariffs became less beneficial to the American economy.
The U.S became a net exporter due to industrialization, and it became necessary to create new forms of taxation. Hence, the Income Taxation policy for individuals and businesses was established in the 16th Amendment and ratified on February 3, 1913.
How many pages is the U.S. Tax Code?
The U.S. tax code starts with the Internal Revenue Code, which is currently 6,871 pages according to the current release point of the United States Code through Public Law 117-154(06/23/2022).
However, other sources are not included in the U.S. Tax Code. They are regulations, interpretations, and official guidance of the tax law, which, when included, will increase the length of the tax code to about 75,000 pages.
These Treasury regulations, also referred to as Federal Tax Regulations, continue from where the Internal Revenue Code stops by providing the official interpretation of the code by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Additionally, the IRS Publication, a regular series of official tax guidance that includes revenue rulings, procedures, notices, and announcements, are all important sources of tax information. They may use them to establish precedents.
This is where the argument about the length of pages of the U.S. Tax Code emerged from.
The argument becomes whether the Treasury Tax Regulations, which is an official interpretation of the Tax Code, and revenue publications by the IRS all form part of the Tax Code. But the Tax Code in itself, enacted by the U.S. Congress based on the current release point, is 6,871 pages.
Case laws, legal decisions, and rulings heard by the U.S. tax courts help clarify and interpret the tax codes, but are they really part of the U.S. Tax Codes?
In 2018, Forbes predicted that the tax code was 75,000 pages, explaining all the complicated reasons it is so lengthy.
A report by PolitiFact noted that even though this information is essential in understanding taxes, they are not tax laws.
The Tax Foundation, a tax policy research entity, argues that they all form part of the tax laws because so many of the tax laws are embedded in the IRS regulations and revenue rulings. And since Congress set down a policy and let the IRS interpret it, it should be read and understood because most court decisions are based on previous cases.
Similarly, the IRS has advised that all the tax codes’ sections should be read entirely due to their complexity. This includes the court decisions that interpret it because subsequent legislation, regulations, court decisions, and revenue rulings published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin are all considered in the tax laws.
If you visit the U.S. Code website, you can see for yourself just how complex it is. In 2017, there was some talk about abolishing it altogether. For now, it keeps growing each year as new laws and regulations come about.
Is the Tax Code 2,700 or 70,000 pages long?
The Tax Code is 6,871 pages, but when you include the tax regulations and official tax guidance from IRS, it will be about 75,000 pages.
But it is imperative to note that while there are merits to the arguments from two opposing sides, the U.S. Tax Code, when downloaded from their website in the PDF format, is 6,871 pages.
How Long Would it Take to Read the U.S. Tax Code?
Reading only the U.S. Tax Code of 6,871 pages will take an average adult 1 week 3 days to finish. But when you include the IRS tax regulations and revenue guidelines, it is about 75,000 pages. This will take 14 weeks to complete.
There is an estimate of 500 words on a single-spaced document. So if you multiply the number of pages (let’s go along with Forbes and say 75,000 pages) by the number of words per page (500), that would mean there are 37,500,000 words explaining taxes in our country!
However, if we focus on the Tax Code laws alone as published by the Congress, which is 6,871 pages, and multiply by 500, that will be a total of 3,435,500 words.
The average adult reads 200 to 250 words per minute. If our math is correct, using the 75,000 figure, it will take 150,000 minutes to finish the tax code. Broken down even further, you get the following:
Then the below breakdown shows how long it is going to take you to finish the Internal Revenue Code of 6,871 pages:
|13,742||229||9 days||1 + 2 days|
This is all to say that if you read nonstop, you could finish reading the tax code in weeks. If you factor in sleep, the number of weeks will increase.
Regardless, if you are a speed reader, you could get through it in half the time. Even faster if you have mastered all the speed reading techniques.
What Your Taxes Pay for
A lesson about the U.S. Tax Code wouldn’t be complete without a bit of knowledge about what your taxes fund. Turbo Tax breaks it down program by program for you.
- 15 percent of all income taxes go to pay for defense.
- 24 percent of tax revenue pays for the Social Security system
- 26 percent of the income tax revenue goes toward health care programs.
- 9 percent of income tax revenue on various programs that provide money for those in need.
- 6 percent takes care of the national debt.
- 20 percent of spending pays for numerous benefits for veterans and retirees.
The remaining goes to scientific and medical research, transportation and infrastructure spending, education, non-security international spending, and other categories. All of this is detailed in the U.S. Tax Code.
The U.S. Tax Code is a body of law covering the federal tax laws in the United States. The U.S.Tax Code is 6,871 pages, this will take about 1 week, 2 days to complete, but when tax regulations and official tax guidelines from the IRS are included, it goes up to about 75,000. In this case, it will take 14 weeks to finish reading them.
The history of taxes dates back to the ancient times, from Egypt down to the Greek and Roman civilization, where their leaders imposed a lot of taxes on the populace. Taxes were usually levied on people to fund wars.
Today, the government uses taxes to cover the cost of governance, including defense, social security system, healthcare, benefits for veterans and retirees, and the like.
Good knowledge of the Tax laws will not only help you avoid penalties from the IRS, but it will also enable you to take advantage of tax deductions and credits embedded within these laws.
Luckily, you don’t have to read the entire tax code to pay your taxes on time. But if you ever cared to, we suggest doing so via speed reading, especially if you are a tax professional or lawyer who needs to understand all the revenue procedures, legal rulings, and precedents to work for your clients.
Want to learn more about speed reading? Click here to sign up for Iris Reading’s speed reading courses today.