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Things we love to hate: Tax forms, bureaucracy, and April fools page 3
Tax time is special, especially for the 1 percent who love to do their taxes

  Richard Amrhine's archive
  E-mail Richard Amrhine
Date published: 4/16/2006



Especially around this time of year the IRS becomes the butt of every late-night TV joke. But the IRS is merely doing the job it believes the government intended it to do. It's up to Congress to reform the rat maze Americans must endure to pay their income taxes, but that's way too complicated for politicians who can't even fix their own campaign financing system.

According to a report from the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank, tax cuts might mean a few more dollars in taxpayers' pockets, but Americans are having to deal with increasingly complex rules to earn their tax breaks. For example:

The number of pages of federal tax rules and regulations is up from 40,500 in 1995 to 66,498 in 2006.

The amount federal taxpayers pay for tax preparation increased from $112 billion in 1995 to $265 billion in 2005.

The complex Alternative Minimum Tax hits 4 million taxpayers today, but will hit 30 million by 2010 if not repealed. Designed to even out the middle-class tax bite, it instead takes bites more like Godzilla. If you're an AMT victim, you'll know it.

Like many other taxpayers, I invest each year in tax preparation software. I just load it into the computer and it politely asks me questions until my forms are completed. The program's simplicity is another reason more people only dislike, rather than hate, doing their taxes.

But each year, as the tax code becomes more complicated based on the aforementioned statistics, I worry that I and other users are putting too much trust in the software. We really do assume that the programmers have done all the thinking and researching necessary for us to comply lawfully. It's not like there's a human tax preparer for you to blame if something is amiss, or that we have any real understanding of the process.

I'm afraid that when I get that fat letter from the IRS that says I owe $39,000, all I'll be able to do is invite them over for a game of Frisbee with my tax preparation disc.

I have some reform ideas: Simplify the tax code, eliminate the loopholes, and make sure the super-wealthy--both individuals and corporations--pay their fair share. That shouldn't be so difficult, but it would probably take 66,498 pages to do it.

RICHARD AMRHINE is a writer and editor for The Free Lance-Star.

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