It only seems fair to classify the United States tax code as an abomination. Created by Congress in much the same way Frankenstein created his monster, and evolved over time like the streets of Boston, the Internal Revenue Service is burdened with task of managing this monstrosity, which Americans must interface with at least once a year. Collectively, Americans spend 6 billion hours each year — nearly 25 hours for each adult, or 3 million people working full-time for the year — dealing with taxes, most of it undoubtedly spent either in a blind rage or soul-crushing melancholy. This isn’t even the worst news.
The worst news is that it’s, well, getting worse. The U.S. tax code is already 4 million words long (this would fill nearly 74,000 standard-sized sheets of paper) and it’s getting longer pretty much every day. In 2012, the National Taxpayer Advocate reported that there had been approximately 4,680 changes to the tax code in the past 11 years, more than one per day.
This has made it pretty much impossible for policymakers and tax professionals — let alone the average citizen — to stay abreast of the current tax environment. Nearly 60 percent of Americans pay a professional to prepare their taxes for them, making the complexity of the tax code another kind of tax in and of itself. The National Taxpayer Advocate argues that the most serious problem facing taxpayers is the complexity of the tax code.
So it’s not that surprising that each year, more than 10 million individuals and 5.5 million businesses file for extensions. If you haven’t got your paperwork in yet (taxes are due April 15) here are a couple of things to keep in mind.