The marvels of electronic filing may have lessened somewhat the demand for postal locations with employees on hand to make sure late mailers get their envelopes date- stamped before midnight, but there still will be many laboring to the last minute to make sure returns are on their way to the IRS in order to avoid a penalty.
While April 15 is the filing deadline, the typical taxpayer will not have yet earned enough money in 2014 to pay his tax bill. “Tax freedom day” — the date recognized each year as the point at which a typical worker will have earned enough to pay all taxes — is set at April 21 this year, three days later than last year.
That means most of us work nearly a third of a year just to meet our obligation to the taxman.
According to numbers compiled by Paul Ryan, chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee, the cost of complying with the demands of the nation’s tax code is more than $160 billion a year.
That’s not the cost of the taxes paid, but rather the cost of all those things that go into compiling and filing annual returns.
Beyond the financial cost, the process is estimated by Ryan to take some 6 billion hours of work each year.
Imagine the problems we could solve as a nation with an extra $160 billion a year and 6 billion hours of time.
Two of the most frequently discussed options for changing how the nation collects taxes are the “flat tax” and the “fair tax.”
The flat tax would take much of the mystery out of the tax code by having taxpayers pay a certain percentage of their income no matter what; the fair tax would generate revenue based on spending for consumer goods rather than income earned.
Both have been the topics of debate and study for many years, yet neither has gained the sort of momentum necessary to move to the forefront as the sort of sweeping tax reform around which the nation will rally.
For most Americans the issue isn’t whether we will be taxed, but rather how much, and what will be done with our tax dollars.
Forced by economic conditions to be frugal in our personal lives, we have trouble accepting government entities that sometimes don’t seem particularly concerned with how they spend the hard-earned dollars we send them.
Reform is overdue and desperately needed.