I earned my Masters’ Degree in Taxation in 1997. During my studies, it became quickly apparent the U.S. Tax code is entirely too complex and incomprehensible to the average person. I was reminded of this truth early this year when I came across I.R.S. publication 5341, “The Taxpayer Roadmap.” The poster is colorful and worthy of framing in any bureaucratic government office. It purports to illustrate “at a very high level, the stages of a taxpayer’s journey…” In other words, this roadmap had been “dumbed down so anyone outside of the I.R.S. could understand it. As I scanned the document, I couldn’t help to wonder how many I.R.S. promotions were awarded to the contributors of this useful tool for us “mortal” taxpayers.

Suddenly, it occurred to me. I had seen this document before. Having spent several years in Japan, my family and I often navigated the Tokyo subway to reach new and exotic cultural destinations. The subway map was a vital part of understanding the transportation landscape. Like the “Taxpayer Roadmap” it is colorful with an endless array of intersections, turns, and dead-ends. There is one critical difference however; the Tokyo Subway Map is useful!

Perhaps my assessment is harsh, or a bit unfair. The Taxpayer’s Roadmap presumably earned some bureaucratic working group promotion points or a year-end bonus. It is colorful. I suppose one could admire the I.R.S. attempt to use graphic illustrations to communicate with taxpayers. But still, I wonder how many taxpayers utilize this little tool to make sense of an overly complicated tax code. As for me, I find the Tokyo Subway Map more exciting…and useful. You be the judge

The Taxpayer Roadmap


The Tokyo Subway Map


The author, Bryan Corcoran, Esq, is a retired Marine Judge Advocate. He earned his J.D. and Masters in Taxation from the University of Akron in 1997. He is currently a Tax Analysts for Heritage Income Tax. The views expressed in this paper are his own, and are not intended as a substitute for professional tax planning or legal advice.