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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

U.S. Internal Revenue Code (26USC) Online Edition Updated

The online, hyperlinked, and searchable edition of the United States Internal Revenue Code (Title 26 of the U.S. Code) has been updated to correspond to the January 19th, 2004 Supplement III to the 2000 edition of the printed U.S. Code. I prepared the original online edition in 1994 when, in the midst of a research project, I found it very useful to be able to click on cross-references to display the citation.

The updated edition is now XHTML 1.0 compliant and uses a style sheet to improve the appearance of the multitudinous cross-links. The full text search facility works as before, and is now also XHTML 1.0 compatible. (Since the complete online Code consists of more than 4300 XHTML documents, validating them all with the W3C Validation Service would take almost forever and verge on a denial of service attack upon that noble and free resource. I have validated all documents with unique aspects and known trouble spots, and employed an automated pseudorandom "stratified sampling" approach to the rest. I'm pretty confident the entire document tree is clean, but if you find something I've missed, let me know with the Feedback form.)

The Internal Revenue Code is arguably the most ambitious social engineering project ever attempted in human history, and without doubt one of the most counterproductive. History will regard it as a Great Pyramid scale monument to unintended consequences. Every provision added with the intent of creating an incentive to stimulate some desired activity results in both attempts to use it purely to escape taxation, and/or creates other unanticipated and possibly deleterious "industries" economically justified only by the tax incentive. This, in turn, causes additional provisions to be enacted, ad infinitum or asymptotically close. Here are some statistics for the 2004 edition of the Code.

Words: 3,453,728
Pages (60 lines/page): 7,694
Cross-references: 23,622
Longest word: trichlorotrifluoroethane

Those who naïvely expect the much-vaunted concept of "Equal Justice Under Law" to extend to sovereign confiscation of the wealth of citizens (and everybody else whose pockets are within reach), may be amazed to discover, within the Revenue Code of the last remaining superpower, special provisions pertaining to Devonian shale, ministers of the gospel, alien baccarat players ("tax-exempt, Mr. Bond"), kosher wine, suntan facilities, and, appropriately, chickenshit. For some of the loudest-squealing porkers, check out the "Transitional Rules" which accompany many items. Here you'll find such exemplars of equal justice (and testaments to the effectiveness of lobbying) as this gem (you'll have to scroll down quite a way or search for the item number): "(35) The amendments made by section 201 shall not apply to any property which is part of the multifamily housing at the Columbia Point Project in Boston, Massachusetts."

Posted at October 12, 2005 17:31