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1. Wasting Your Time and Money
The tax code is now 3.8 million words long, according to The Tax Foundation. "Over the last ten years," the organization claims, "there have been about 4,428 changes to the tax code, or more than one a day, including about 579 changes in 2010 alone."
The results of that complexity are not surprising: Some 7.64 billion hours of paperwork, according to government statistics cited by the National Taxpayers Union one year ago. "This massive time expenditure adds up to a whopping $227.1 billion, when calculated with the most recently reported average employer cost for civilian workers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: $29.72 per hour," the NTU wrote.
As Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum recently put it,
Yet in the same speech where [President Barack] Obama condemned the "loopholes and shelters" that rich people use to avoid paying their "fair share," he promoted policies that compound the complexity, including special breaks for college students, "companies that hire vets," "small businesses," "high-tech" manufacturers, "clean energy," energy-conserving building improvements, and "companies that choose to stay here and hire here in America." This insistence on using taxes for economic meddling and social engineering has made the system the hideous mess it is today.
The fever dream of central planners everywhere is that the only obstacle to a perfectly balanced budget is insufficient citizen compliance. As we ready our annual humiliation, it's worth remembering that Uncle Sam's desperation for cash, which has already encroached too far on our freedoms, may have only just begun.
Matt Welch is editor in chief of Reason and co-author (with Nick Gillespie) of "The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America" (PublicAffairs).