We can count the cost of government in cash terms pretty well this time of year. We can look close at our W-2s to see in one big number what is oft unseen: The cash from our paychecks that we never even get the chance to spend ourselves, much less miss from our wallets. Some of us even get a little bit of it back, filling us with a false gratefulness toward those keeping interest-free hold of our money all year.
But what can't be conveniently enumerated is the time it takes to obey the maddening maze of paperwork the IRS has erected around the act of paying taxes itself. Many of us are driven to hire accountants. Citizenship itself has become so complicated it must be professionalized.
Thanks, however, to the Orwellian-titled Paperwork Reduction Act, the IRS tells us at the end of certain instructions exactly how long it takes us to willingly bare our necks on their yearly chopping block. For the basic 1040, they claim the average taxpayer spends slightly over 12 hours of time in record keeping, learning the law, and preparing and sending the form. If you dare earn some of your money other than as an employee, you are thus a menace to the IRS. Filling out the dreaded Schedule C (Profit or Loss From Business) adds another 10 hours to your burden.
But perhaps the most excessive of the forms the average non-employee is apt to deal with is Form 4562, which accounts for depreciation and amortization of equipment bought and used for business purposes. That one form alone, according to IRS's own average estimate, is expected to take over 48 hours to cope with. That's six entire working days. Did it really take me that long? I'll plead the Fifth. But taking the government's own estimations, the typical person who runs even the simplest of little businesses, with no employees, no inventory, and no storefront, can expect to take nearly two entire working weeks just coping with taxes—another two weeks of our lives stolen by government demands. It's just a minor cost of Professional Citizenship we are expected to cope with on our own time (if any of our time can truly be considered our own with the IRS on the prowl.)
Needless to say, we get no national two-week holiday to deal with this most onerous of tasks. Maybe it's about time to start a movement demanding one.