That doesn't include the time spent doing state and local forms, or more important: the burden of "tax minimization strategies" on the economy.
And we haven't even mentioned the corporate income tax. But don't worry. The IRS stands ready to assist the bewildered. "If a taxpayer needs help beyond the basic form," Keating writes, "the IRS now lists 1,909 publications, forms, and instructions for download (some are duplicates in different languages) from its Web site -- up from the 1,770 NTU logged last year." Thanks a lot, IRS.
This is insane. How dare a government that supposedly serves the people impose on us this way? Politicians who pass these tax laws aren't our representatives. They're our rulers! They increase the tax burden and its complexity, and then demand we pay them homage to get exemptions for little pieces of our lives.
What are we to do? Some people say scrap the income tax for the Fair Tax, a national sales tax. Others want a flat income tax of, maybe, 17 percent. One form; no deductions.
There's always danger in proposing a replacement for the income tax: We could end up with two taxes. I wouldn't put it past our greedy Congress to promise that a national sales tax -- or worse, a value-added tax -- would replace the income tax then, once the new taxes are in place, to say that the need for revenue is so great that they must retain the income tax, too.
Let's not take our eye off the ball: lower and much simpler taxes.