4 MILLION WORDS: the U.S. Tax Code is seven times the length of ‘War and Peace’

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A long, long read? You betcha.

At 3,951,104 words long, the U.S. Tax Code is seven times the length of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” - one of the longest reads of all among the academically minded. But wait. The Code is also twice the length of the King James Bible plus the entire works of Shakespeare combined.

And in contemporary terms, the Code is twice the length of the five Song of Ice and Fire series books that inspired the TV show “Game of Thrones.”

So says the National Taxpayers Union, which has quantified all the intricacies of our tax culture to find that the nation’s economy lost $224 billion and 6.1 billion hours of productivity “due to the burden of compliance with a complex and invasive tax code.”

Yes well. Seventy-five years ago, the Form 1040 instructions were two pages long. Now they are 206 pages.

“Too many Americans spent too long or too much figuring out their taxes, only to pray they got it right,” says study author David Keating. “Paying taxes in a civilized society should not be this hideously complicated.”

He also notes that the average taxpayer using the 1040 “long” form – which according to IRS projections amounts to two-thirds of all 1040 returns filed. That racks up about 15 hours on tax compliance - long enough to watch the entire Dark Knight Trilogy of Batman movies twice.


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