For many years, I did my own taxes. I figured, hey, I’m a pretty smart guy, and my tax situation is fairly straightforward. How hard could it be? But finally, I got to a point where the complexity of the Federal tax system just beat me down. My wife would find me sitting at the table with my head in my hands, surrounded by forms, schedules, tax tables, instructions, and publications. “Arrrgghh!” I would say, “How do they expect anyone to understand this?
I’m pretty good at reading instructions and following them. But just try to figure how much you owe if you, say, sold some stock and made a small profit, or if you have a small business. It got to the point where I felt like I was reading instructions written in Hungarian, and it made me wonder what all those millions of people do who may not be that good at reading and understanding forms. I suppose many of them are just filling out a 1040 EZ, and possibly missing out on hundreds or thousands of dollars in refunds that they may not be astute enough to ferret out from the deep black bowels of the U.S. tax code.
That’s because the tax code was not written so that you and I would easily be able to understand what we owe. It was written and amended, and amended, and amended, by wealthy people and large corporations through their lackeys in Congress, to favor their own interests. And the rich can afford to hire teams of accountants to sift through the almost four million-word, 13,458 page tax code to make sure they get every deduction the law allows, and retain really smart attorneys to represent them in court if the IRS should ever question their returns.
And they would probably win. Because the tax code is so complicated, I’m sure most of the people that work for the IRS don’t completely understand it. It’s not their fault, no one could. But if you wanted to try, you could go to the U.S. Government Printing Office and order a complete set of the U.S. tax code, all 20 volumes of it, for the bargain price of $974, shipping included. Just a little light reading for your next beach trip.
A couple of years ago, my tax situation got a little more complicated, and I finally threw in the towel and admitted I was whipped. I found a nice lady accountant who knows just where to plug in all the numbers in her computer program, and she has saved me from paying thousands of dollars that I didn’t owe, by finding credits and deductions I never knew existed.
It would be great if someone could figure out a way to simplify the tax code so that it is both fair to everyone and easy to use. I’m pretty sure that someone already has done so, but that any new ideas have been blocked by the wealthy special interests who do pretty well with the current mess of tax laws.
And that’s not likely to change anytime soon.