As they rush to file their taxes by April 18, Americans are rightfully frustrated with the complexity of the 74,608-page-long federal tax code.
The federal tax code is 187 times longer than it was a century ago, according to Wolters Kluwer, CCH, which has analyzed it since 1913.
Amazingly, in the first 26 years of the federal income tax, the tax code only grew from 400 to 504 pages. Even through President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, the tax code was well under 1,000 pages. Changes during World War II made the length of the tax code balloon to 8,200 pages.
Most of the growth in the tax code came in the past 30 years, growing from 26,300 pages in 1984 to nearly three times that length today.
This growth in the tax code has not come without consequences. "Over the decades, lawmakers have increasingly asked the tax code to direct all manner of social and economic objectives, such as encouraging people to buy hybrid vehicles, turn corn into gasoline, purchase health insurance, buy a home, replace that home's windows, adopt children, put them in daycare, purchase school supplies, go to college, invest in historic buildings, spend more on research, and the list goes on," according to the Tax Foundation's chart book, "Putting a Face on America's Tax Returns."
The book goes on to describe the powerful effect this has had on the Internal Revenue Service. "The growth in social and economic policy driven through the tax code has made the IRS a super-agency, duplicating the work of every other cabinet agency, from Energy and Education to HHS and HUD. Were we to start from scratch, we would not want a tax collection agency to perform these functions."
Upon the signing of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, President Ronald Reagan said, "Fair and simpler for most Americans, this is a tax code designed to take us into a future of technological invention and economic achievement, one that will keep America competitive and growing into the 21st century." He later added that he would oppose any kind of tax rate hikes because the tax code and the economy need certainty. However, by 1995 the tax code had grown to 40,500 pages.
From 2010, when Obamacare was passed, to 2014, the tax code grew by nearly 3,000 more pages.
If the tax code continues to grow at the same pace it did over the last century, it will pass 100,000 pages in 2050.
Jason Russell is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.