WASHINGTON – How unpleasant is it to fill out federal tax forms? Unpleasant enough that Americans are about evenly divided when asked whether they'd prefer a trip to the dentist.
Taxpayers have until Friday to file, and millions are scrambling to meet the deadline. Among them is William Long, a businessman from Ferris, Texas.
"Anybody who says they don't mind their taxes is lying," Long said. "I definitely put them off until the last minute, even when money is coming back. I just don't want to de people will do almost anything to avoid it," Smith said.
It's easy to see why so many wait.
Seven in 10 said their federal taxes (search) are too complicated, according to a poll conducted for The Associated Press by Ipsos-Public Affairs. The survey found 49 percent would prefer a trip to the dentist while 48 percent would rather prepare their taxes.
Simplifying the tax system (search) is the goal of a federal panel that will be collecting information the next few months and is expected to offer recommendations by midsummer. Some proposals that might be considered include:
—Reducing income tax rates while imposing a national sales tax (search).
—Instituting a flat tax that would have everyone pay the same rate regardless of what they earn.
Most people don't like the flat tax idea, with 57 percent of those surveyed saying people with higher incomes should pay a higher tax rate. Only 40 percent thought tax rates should be the same for everyone.
By a 3-to-1 margin, Democrats favored the wealthier paying a higher rate, while Republicans were more likely to favor taxing everyone at the same rate.
"There are the fortunate few who are making their living on other people's hard work, they can afford to give more back to the government," said Phil Rosenfeld, a computer consultant from Miami who leans Democratic.
Kim Howard-Johnson, a San Diego homemaker who leans Republican, said she would like to see the tax rates the same for all income levels.
"I think it should be changed," she said. "That's the fairest thing to do. It would provide an incentive for people to make more money."
Another way to simplify taxes would be to eliminate some tax deductions and credits, but people were sharply divided on that issue. Forty-five percent supported the idea, while 51 percent opposed it.
Among people responsible for preparing their family's tax returns, about one in 10 said they had started work on them in the last week, while another 15 percent had done nothing yet.
People who make less than $25,000 a year were more likely to have put off doing their taxes than those with higher incomes.
Amy Cavendar of Baton Rouge, La., said she doesn't even attempt to do her own taxes.
"I have income coming in from two states, so I have to get them done so I don't slip up on any of the laws," she said "I know my weaknesses enough to find somebody to do them. I've already filed and gotten my refund."
The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,001 adults was taken from April 4-6 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.