In a recent Pew poll, 72 percent of Americans said that they were bothered by how complex the federal tax system is. These taxpayers are justified in their complaints: as of 2015, federal tax laws and regulations have...
- The Tax Policy Blog
- Tax Compliance Now Takes More Than 7 Billion Hours
Tax Compliance Now Takes More Than 7 Billion Hours
IRS Commissioner Douglass Schulman recently spoke about complexity in the tax code and associated compliance costs:
"Making the tax code less complex is the single most important thing that could be done to improve taxpayer service and boost compliance.
Perhaps the most telling indicator of taxpayer confusion over the code's complexity is that today, 90% of individual taxpayers pay for professional tax preparation or tax software to prepare their tax returns. IRS research estimates that, over the past 10 years, the burden for the typical taxpayer has increased by about 20% and would likely be even more if they had to prepare returns themselves without any aids or tools. Moreover, we estimate individual taxpayers and businesses spend more than 7bn hours each year complying with filing requirements.
Complexity grows incrementally with every legislative session. The 15,000 plus changes to the tax code since 1986 are anything but elegant, anything but simple, and anything but clear to the average taxpayer. A simpler system could better further policy goals by having a more involved and engaged taxpayer base that would take advantage of incentives to which they are entitled and thereby improve their economic position."
The more than 7 billion hours it takes to comply represents about a 15 percent increase over last year's estimate of 6.1 billion. To put that figure in context, it amounts to about 3.5 million people working full time for a year, or about 25 percent of the 14 million who are unemployed.
Follow William McBride on Twitter @EconoWill
Get Email Updates from the Tax Foundation
We will never sell or share your information with third parties.
Join the Tax Foundation's fight for sound tax policy Go
About the Tax Policy Blog
The Tax Policy Blog is the official blog of the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Our economists welcome your feedback. If you would like to send an e-mail to the author of a blog post, please click on that person's name to locate his or her e-mail address or visit our staff page here.