As the April 18 tax deadline looms, consider this: The Tax Foundation estimates that Americans spend more than 6 billion hours each year just to meet the obligations of the federal tax code.
And the cost? The National Taxpayers Union estimates that tax compliance costs $234 billion annually in direct expenses and lost productivity. And that’s only going to get worse, says Pete Sepp, the group’s president.
Each year around this time we admonish America’s infuriating system of federal income taxes, which taxpayers rightfully should be able to figure out on the back of a matchbook in five minutes. Instead, an increasingly complex, perpetually changing hot mess of a tax code leads to a guessing game that too many Americans lose.
That annual notification comes in the form of a tax refund check. The average refund for 2015 was $2,860. That supposed “windfall” could have been used throughout the year to meet expenses or pay down debt. Or set aside in a savings account. Instead, it’s an interest-free loan to the government.
And tax ignorance isn’t bliss when the IRS reportedly is holding $1 billion in refunds unclaimed by an estimated 1 million Americans, who should have filed 2013 federal income tax returns — but didn’t.
Paying one’s taxes shouldn’t amount to a shell game. It should be simplified so that citizens, themselves, can figure out — to the penny — exactly what they owe Uncle Sam.
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