There's been a threefold increase in people who have had tax problems who never had trouble before. But don't worry: The IRS has vowed to treat struggling taxpayers fairly and compassionately (I know when I think of the IRS, I think "fair and compassionate," don't you?)
But here's the one thing that the mainstream media is missing: There is a simple solution.
Like I told you Monday, it's not about the taxes, but the out of control spending.
Look at all the waste when it comes to paying taxes; we printed out the 60,000-page tax code and all of its 3.7 million words. It would take the average person more than 300 hours to get through that many words written clearly, let alone the scary mix of legalese and nonsense in these piles.
But even if you were able to get through it, the code would have changed a dozen times by the time you're done. In fact, there have been 3,250 changes since the start of President Bush's term, an average of more than one a day.
All this is so overwhelming that four-out-of-five individual taxpayers pay for help. Just complying with the tax code costs taxpayers and businesses 7.6 billion hours, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate at the IRS.
If tax compliance alone were an industry it would require 3.8 million full-time workers. And it costs the equivalent of $193 billion in man hours — a staggering 14 percent of the total taxes collected.
Here's what I can't understand: How more people don't see that simple is always better.
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You have the tax code that is so complicated that even Tim Geithner, who's in charge of the IRS, can't figure it out. It's nothing but a destroyer of wealth. And it's basically our country's very own prison sentence.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Constitution has created untold wealth, changed the world and given human beings unprecedented freedom.
Maybe our government could learn that yes, size does matter: with taxes, the smaller, the smarter; the simpler, the better.
If it seems impossible, remember back to 1986 when the Reagan administration and Congress set out to simplify the tax code. Not only were they able to stay "revenue neutral," but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the country actually made about $5 billion more between 1987 and 1991 with the simpler code.
But even Reagan didn't cut spending like he needed to. The truth is, if you don't have enough money, spend less. And if you want to make April 15 seem a lot less like Friday the 13th, make the process more simple and fair.
When your deficit is growing and your tax code is longer than your Constitution, you need to learn to cut both words and spending.
That won't happen until we learn to cut politicians.
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