Future archaelogists will puzzle over the apparent loss of millions of children in 1986. About seven million dependents claimed on 1040s failed to show up in the following year. Freakonomist Steven Levitt puts a human face on this tragedy (via the TaxProf):
He told the story ... of the midlevel employee who had been with the IRS for some 30 years who became fascinated over time by what sort of creatures and things taxpayers listed as dependents. Clearly, many of these “dependents” were pets, made-up children and even objects. For many years, the IRS only asked taxpayers to put down a name for their dependents, so the employee suggested that tax forms also require that dependent social security numbers be listed. The IRS resisted until finally taking his advice in 1986, and in that first year, some seven million "children" and other "dependents" disappeared from the United States, resulting in increased federal tax collections of nearly $3 billion.
Levitt told this story to his father, "and he admitted that I had lost a brother and sister that fateful night."
This tragic story was repeated nationwide millions of times. Oh, thou bloody tax law!
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