It seems fair to classify the U.S. tax code as an abomination created by Congress and handled by the Internal Revenue Service. Americans spend six billion hours each year — nearly 25 hours for each adult, or 3 million people working full-time for the year — dealing with it, 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 thousand 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.
The good news is that most people don’t need to worry about most parts of the tax code. Here’s a guide to some of the major changes (and non-changes) for 2014 that will impact almost every filer.