"excessive bureaucratic rigmarole," 1736, in reference to the red tape formerly used in Great Britain (and the American colonies) for binding up legal and other official documents, mentioned from 1690s.
Official forms and procedures, especially those that are complex and time-consuming. For example, There's so much red tape involved in approving our remodeling that we're tempted to postpone it indefinitely. This expression alludes to the former British custom of tying up official documents with red ribbon. [Early 1800s]