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October 2, 2023

Tax Nerds Set Record Straight on Tax Code vs. NFL Rulebook Complexity

If there's one thing tax people can't stand, it's other people saying incorrect things about taxes.

I know this because I used to be a tax person who spent lots time listening to superiors correct me (and others) constantly on nuances of the code.

But, it's fine! Taxes are hard and people like showing off. It's human nature, especially for a tax nerd. I mean, c'mon, it's the only thing they've got.

Anyway, NFL commentator Cris Collinsworth said something silly the other night during the Broncos/Patriots game when he fumbled through an explanation about the excess time out rule: "The [NFL] Rulebook is like the IRS Code right now. Who knows what's all in there."

That's funny! Because the tax code is complex! Alright, it's not that funny. Collinsworth is a football guy who probably gets his tax knowledge from Al Michaels. He can't be expected to know the difference between a Section 351 transfer and Section 721 transfer, can he? No, he cannot.

The Tax Foundation, full of good natured folks to be sure, couldn't let it go, though. They methodically dismantled Collinsworth:

Word Count

NFL Rulebook: 55,000 words

Internal Revenue Code: 3.9 million words

These being federal statutes, much of the word count is internal citations, appendices, enactment clauses, and the like, but a reasonable estimate with all this stripped away is still over 2.4 million words. Add in case law, guidance, and other supplementary material needed to actually understand the tax code and you wind up with CCH's 74,000 page Standard Federal Tax Reporter. The NFL Rulebook, including tables and diagrams, runs 79 pages.

One thing is for certain: Carly Fiorina can't get either the tax code or the NFL rulebook down to three pages. Back to the TF:

People Who Know What's All In There

NFL Rulebook: "Who knows what's all in there," but officiating crews, presumably?

Internal Revenue Code: Nobody.

Adequate Explanation of What Constitues [sic] a Catch

NFL Rulebook: No.

Internal Revenue Code: No.

Oh, nice one, Tax Foundation! See? I told you they were good natured. But, yes, for the record, the IRC is more complex than the NFL rulebook. The matter is now closed.

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