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Tax Reform and Tax Simplification, 29 University of Miami Law Review 1 (1974)


Neither "tax simplification" nor its mirror image, complexity, is a
concept that can be easily defined or measured. I know of no comprehensive
analytic framework for these ideas, nor are there any
empirical studies supplying a "simplicity index" of particular areas of
tax law and practice. Journalists often ridicule the Internal Revenue
Code by pointing to lengthy involuted provisions and to definitions
that refer the reader to other definitions that in turn compel him to go
even farther afield. A favorite example is the 554-word sentence that
makes up Section 341(e)(I). But these statutory intricacies may in fact be of minor importance, if they are addressed to tax experts concerned
with transactions that rarely occur; and they may even clarify the law,
despite their initially baffling phraseology. Sections 671-675, for example,
are intricate provisions. As compared with the pre-1946 law
governing income-splitting trusts, however, their message is crystalclear.
The statutory language was simpler in earlier years, but the
taxpayer and his adviser had to weigh the implications of hundreds of
judicial decisions, most of which simply announced that all of the
relevant facts and circumstances were to be weighed in determining
whether the income of a trust was taxable to the grantor or to its
trustee and beneficiaries. The 1945 regulations and 1954 statutory
rules that replaced these judicial decisions were complex, but they
made it much easier to find one's way through the wilderness. On the
other hand, elaborate statutory verbiage can be a source of complexity
and an obstacle to simplification; I will offer some instances later in
this paper.

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