To say that the tax code is simply complicated would be an understatement. The tax code is possibly the biggest bureaucratic specter hanging over the United States. In its entirety, the document is over 4 million words long, which, if printed, would occupy nearly 74,000 regular 8.5-inch by 11-inch pieces of paper. This enormous document is edited so many times per year that the changes work out to averaging more than one per day. Americans spend an estimated 7.6 billion hours each year doing taxes or jumping through tax-related hoops — that’s about 24 hours for every person above the age of 18, or three full work days. The White House estimated in 2010 that American taxpayers sink about $140 billion worth of lost productivity into doing taxes.
Filing taxes has assumed a legendary reputation for being tedious and frustrating, but when all is said and done, though — when you’ve done your penance and given 24 hours of your life to the IRS, along with all those dollars — there is probably nothing more frustrating than finding out that you owe more money than you initially thought. Either your withholding wasn’t high enough, your estimates were off, you lost some deductions, or were somehow penalized, but every year millions of Americans end up having to write an extra check to Uncle Sam.
Here are a couple of ways to beef up the deductions and credits section of your return to help make sure that doesn’t happen — or, if it must, that the year-end damage is as minimal as possible.