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Taxpayer advocate tries to put tax reform on the table

It would be an understatement to say that the federal tax code is dense and sprawling. Some people might quip that it's longer than the Bible - without the good news. It could certainly also be compared to Charles Dickens's novel Bleak House, a very lengthy tome with a suitably daunting title.

In the last decade alone, there have been nearly 5,000 to the U.S. tax code. Inevitably, with so much change, there are many situations where the possibility of tax litigation can arise.

latest annual report to Congress. In preparing the report, the taxpayer advocate estimated how much time individuals and businesses spend on compliance with the many - and constantly Changing - requirements for filing taxes.

Not surprisingly, the number that the taxpayer advocate came up with is extremely large. But it is so large that the number is still rather startling. According to the taxpayer advocate, the amount of time spent on tax compliance by taxpayers every year adds up to about 6.1 billion hours.

Moreover, the problem isn't getting any easier. With so many changes to the tax code, the potential for tax disputes continues to rise.

The challenge of complying amid all the complexity is reflected in the number of people who either use paid professional tax preparers or buy pricy commercial software to take care of their taxes. That number is now about 9 in every 10 taxpayers.

The taxpayer advocate's critique of the federal tax code's complexity is both broad and specific. On the one hand, the critique is aimed at encouraging a comprehensive reform of the overly complicated code. But the taxpayer advocate also has some specific suggestions for streamlining, such as repealing the alternative minimum tax.

Source: "I.R.S.'s Taxpayer Advocate Calls for a Tax Code Overhaul," The New York Times, Catherine Rampell, 1-9-13

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