"On tax reform, we, right now, have more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible —
Not one of them is good," Sen. Ted Cruz said Monday.
During the course of a speech calling for tax reform, the Texas Republican echoed this point, made many times over the years by conservative and libertarian critics of a bloated, complex tax code.
Speaking to the International Association of Fire Fighters, Cruz discussed the economic benefits of tax and regulatory reforms enacted during the 1920s, 1960s, and 1980s and made the case that the American people would benefit if similar policies were instituted today.
But Washington Post fact checker Michelle Ye He Lee
ignored Cruz's argument that less intrusive government policies are most likely to bring about economic growth. Instead, her analysis honed in on his claim that the tax code contains more words than the Bible.
Cruz was factually correct, the Post said. The King James Version of the Bible contains slightly more than 800,000 words. By comparison, "there are as many as 3.7 million individual words in the IRS tax code."
The paper then quoted Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate at the IRS, who "says that Cruz is not off-base."
The Post observed that the 2014 annual report to Congress by the IRS watchdog arm known as the Taxpayer Advocate Service said that the complexity of the tax code "continues to burden taxpayers and drain IRS resources."
In 1991, the report said,
there were 45,789 sections, subsections and cross-references in the code. By 2012, the number had jumped to 66,812 — an increase of 46 percent.
The massive size and incomprehensibility of the code may create huge problems for taxpayers —
including those who attempt to figure out their taxes by using electronic-filing programs.
"Many people don’t know why they’re getting the results they’re getting," Olson told the Post. "They may be paying too much, they may be paying too little."
And if they end up paying too little, it could well result in lengthy conversations with the IRS, Olson said.
After all that, the Post administered "The Pinocchio Test" to Cruz's statement, which it declared to be "a nonsense fact" — something "that is technically correct but ultimately meaningless."
Most Americans, would "likely" agree with the senator that tax policy should be "drastically simplified," The Post said.
"But such a crude comparison, which provides no nuance or context, doesn’t capture why the tax code has become so complex and how it affects taxpayers," the paper concluded. It gave no Pinocchios to Cruz's statement.
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