Monday, April 17, 2006

Do We Really Need a 9 Million Word Tax Code?

Today is Tax Day in the USA. Because the 15th fell on a Saturday, we all got a two day extension on filing our taxes. Whoo-boy! That really got my blood pumping!

No one on earth knows what is in the federal tax code. Its vast complexity plagues the system, and is a burden the tax payers are unnecessarily bearing.

Steve Forbes, testifying before the President’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, put the federal tax code in perspective: “The Gettysburg Address, which defined the American nation, is 272 words in length. Our Declaration of Independence is some 1,300 words. The Bible, which spans several thousand years of human history, is 773,000 words. But the federal tax code, with all of its attendant rules and regulations, is 9 million words and rising.

Since the last attempt at tax simplification was made in 1986 the code has been amended 14,000 times and grown by 3 million words. Today a typical taxpayers filing a regular Form 1040 will spend 26 hours and 48 minutes annum completing his return, that’s up 57% from 17 hours and 7 minutes spent filing in 1988. Americans are spending 6.6 billion hours preparing their tax forms. That’s the equivalent of 3.3 million full times jobs are squandered on tax compliance! Does anyone else see a serious inefficiency here? Think of the lost productivity!

And it’s not just the everyday citizens that are confounded by the tax code. Tax professionals are often confused by the metamorphosing regulations. Isn’t there a way that the people can be relieved of this headache?

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