This post was originally published on Forbes Sep 21, 2015
The trope of the "70,000 page tax code" which has been embraced by some of the presidential candidates is really starting to aggravate me. So far I have noted Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina leading their tax discussions with that falsehood. And it is a falsehood. It is pretty clear that the source of the falsehood is a misinterpretation of a statement by the American subsidiary of a Dutch company called Wolters Kluwer about a set of books that it sells - the 25 volume CCH Standard Federal Tax Reporter. Why anybody would buy those books is beyond me, but that is another story.
Statutes, Regulations, and Caselaw: But, a lawyer who relies just on cases and regulations isn’t a very good lawyer, because most court decisions are made on the basis of previously decided cases. The respected legal publisher Commerce Clearing House (CCH) puts out such a compilation, the Standard Federal Tax Reporter of 70,000 pages, with notations after each statute containing relevant cases and other information. CCH itself considers this volume to be representative of “the tax code,” since an expert needs to know all 70,000 pages to understand the tax code in full.
It Is A Stupid Metric