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The IRS Tax Code

Write-Off: The Tax Blog

Tax folks, as a collective group, have a lot of pet peeves. One is attributing the tax law, or the Internal Revenue Code, to the Internal Revenue Service. Congress writes the tax law, and, the Internal Revenue Service enforces it. In a recent excellent podcast by Lisa De Simone and Bridget Stomberg, they remind us of this fact, and, reference a Texas politician who likes to refer to the Internal Revenue Code as the “IRS Code”.

Who is this politician, and, is he so uneducated as to think that the good people at the IRS are the authors of the tax code? Of the many offending politicians, Ted Cruz is pretty well known for his deriding of the “IRS Code.” For example, back in 2015, he noted, “On tax reform, we, right now, have more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible — not a one of them as good.”

As I pondered Drs. Stomberg and De Simone’s subtle reference to Cruz, I wondered to myself what Cruz actually knows about the tax code. And, here is my conclusion: Ted Cruz knows exactly who writes the tax code. Indeed, as an elected member of Congress, he is one of the people involved in the process! But, in a political climate in which the IRS has been defunded and demonized, it is pretty useful to scapegoat the IRS—we have a broken tax code, blame the IRS! This is especially useful when the person doing the blaming is one of the few hundred people on earth who actually have the job to fix the problem. Its good political messaging to call the Internal Revenue Code the IRS Code, both making look bad a government body you wish to make look bad, as well as deflect blame from the responsibility one has as a member of Congress to reform the tax code.

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