Billions and billions of hours burned – on taxes

Released: 
April 14, 2013

Americans and the tax experts they hire spend 6.1 billion hours a year trying to pay what’s owed. Compliance is a 3 million-worker industry.

Today is Tax Day - Americans have until midnight tonight to get their forms mailed, checks written or refunds calculated, or they will have to apply for an extension. That means a big final push for the more than a million tax preparers navigating the complex tax code - and a whole lot of time devoted to adding things up.

Going it alone or with an accountant, Americans spend long hours preparing their tax returns. Add them up, in fact, and the total tops 6.1 billion hours annually.

Contributing to the challenge: the steady addition of tax code changes – 4,680 since 2001. That’s more than one a day.

If tax compliance were a single industry, it would rank among the largest in the U.S. The field employs the equivalent of 3 million full-time workers. The IRS has another 90,000 workers.

Check out our infographic for more on tax complexity. See “What Do Others Say?” for more views, then add to the discussion below. How much time do you burn doing your taxes? Would you support a simplified system?