Carrie Lukas

Spring is in the air. Americans are removing coats, walking into the sunshine, admiring budding flowers. Unfortunately, they'll have to return inside, descend into poorly lit basements or cramped home offices, and get to work preparing taxes to meet the looming April 15.

No one enjoys paying taxes. The average American taxpayer loses about 30 percent of his or her income to federal, state, and local taxes—that are a greater share of income than is spent on food, clothing, and housing combined.

Yet it's not just the money that we lose to taxes that makes paying them such a burden. Complying with the mind-numbingly complex tax code is itself a cost for millions of Americans. We lose more of our time, spend more of our money, and expend more of our energy worrying about how to make sense of all the paperwork and ensure that we aren't accidentally breaking laws or giving Uncle Sam more of our hard-won earnings than we have to.

The National Taxpayers Union estimated that in 2009 Americans spent 3.8 billion hours complying with income tax laws. That was 200 million more hours than just the year before. The cost of all this time was an estimated $110 billion. In other words, if people could have put those hours to productive use—instead of going blind filling out pages of fine-print forms—our economy would have been bigger and our standard of living higher.

The lost time wasn't the only expense born by American taxpayers. In addition to this lost time, Americans paid out of pocket nearly $30 billion for help in preparing their taxes, from software programs to tax preparation professionals. That's a little more than $200 for the average taxpayer. Two hundred dollars may not sound like much, but at a time when so many Americans are struggling to make ends meet, facing major declines in their housing values and savings, who can afford to spend money like this?

Carrie Lukas

Carrie Lukas is the Managing Director at the Independent Women’s Voice and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.