After the 16th Amendment was ratified, an income tax was imposed starting in 1913 with rates ranging from 1 percent to 7 percent with the top rate applying only to incomes in excess of $500,000. By 1916 that top rate had risen to 15 percent, on income in excess of $2,000,000. The top rate exceeded 90 percent at its peak in the early 1950s. The first 1040 form -- instructions and all -- took up only four pages. Today there are some 4,000 pages of tax forms and instructions. American workers and business are forced to spend more than 5.4 billion man-hours every year figuring out their taxes. Since those hours could be put to a more productive use, and almost surely would be in the absence of today’s incomprehensible tax code, the result is a large dead-weight output loss of some $200 billion each year. ... The IRS now has more enforcement personnel than the EPA, BATF, OSHA, FDA, and DEA combined. With its 115,000-man workforce, it has the power to search the property and financial documents of American citizens without a search warrant and to seize property from American citizens without a trial. It routinely does both. Economist James L. Payne has written a most revealing analysis of the IRS, a 1993 book entitled Costly Returns. He arrives at a stunning conclusion, the total cost to collect our federal taxes, including the effects on the economy as a whole adds up to an amazing 65 percent of all the tax dollars received annually. The U.S. tax system, says Payne, has produced hundreds of thousands of victims of erroneous IRS penalties, liens, levies, and tax advice. In answering taxpayer questions, for example, the IRS telephone information service has in previous years given about one-third of all callers -- as many as 8.5 million Americans -- the wrong answers to their questions. A 1987 General Accounting Office study found that 47 percent of a random sample of IRS correspondence -- including demands for payments -- contained errors. Incredibly a GAO audit of the IRS in 1993 found widespread evidence of financial malfeasance and gross negligence at the agency. The IRS could not account for 64 percent of its congressional appropriation!
It constantly amazes me that defenders of the free market are expected to offer certainty and perfection while government has only to make promises and express good intentions. Many times, for instance, I’ve heard people say, "A free market in education is a bad idea because some child somewhere might fall through the cracks," even though in today’s government school, millions of children are falling through the cracks every day.