- Days left
Income Tax Frustration
Getty Images
According to the Internal Revenue Service, it takes an average of four hours for a taxpayer to fill out their tax return. And that's for those lucky folks who are only required to fill out and file Form 1040EZ. If you have to file Form 1040 (this accounts for about 70 percent of all tax returns), you'll spend an average of 16 hours during the course of a year getting the job done -- the bulk of the time (12 hours) on record-keeping and completing/submitting the proper forms.

Believe it or not, this wasn't always the case.

A recent article from Business Insider shares a typical tax return from 1948. The return consisted of just one page -- and could probably have been completed in less than 10 minutes!

Today's Form 1040 is just slightly longer, comprising a manageable two pages. But it's the set of rules for completing those two pages (along with the slew of additional worksheets many of us must also complete), explained over 206 technical pages, that leaves most of us crying uncle.

It's little wonder more than 80 million of us pay $10 billion each year to hire professional tax help (unqualified though they may be) to complete our returns for us.

It's Not That Complicated ... If You Live in One of These Countries

A handful of countries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Chile, and Spain) already use "pre-populated" tax returns.

For the most part, this means that the country prepares a tax return (using the wage data received from the citizen's employer), runs the relevant calculations, and then mails the return to the citizen for review.
  • If it's correct, you're done.
  • If a change needs to be made, you make it, mail it back -- and you're done.
Simple as that! No waiting by the mailbox for your W-2. No interest deduction forms that your kids can accidentally toss away. Heck, you may not even need a calculator.

More than just being a welcome stress relief,
this process also results in quicker tax refunds, fewer audits -- and of course fewer employees needed at the tax department (which trickles down into smaller taxes!).

Of course, this free, automatic form of filing taxes is possible because those countries have simpler rules surrounding personal income taxes (meaning you may not be able to deduct mortgage interest, student loan interest, or charitable deductions) -- which is a topic for another article entirely.

Nevertheless, a simpler method for filing taxes is not only possible, but it's also receiving much praise. Unfortunately, you'd have to move outside of the U.S. to take advantage of it.

Adam Wiederman is a Motley Fool contributing writer.​

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Basics Of The Stock Market

Stock Market 101 - everything you need to know but were afraid to ask!

View Course »

Advice for Recent College Grads

Prepare yourself for the "real world".

View Course »

TurboTax Articles

Cities with the Lowest Tax Rates

The total amount of tax you pay reaches far beyond what you owe the federal government. Depending on where you live, most likely you're required to pay additional taxes, including property and sales tax. The disparity between the amount of tax you pay in a low-tax city and that in a high-tax city can be dramatic. Living in any of these 10 cities could save you a bundle, although the exact amount may fluctuate based on your income and lifestyle choices.

Cities with the Highest Tax Rates

Much ado is made in the press about federal tax brackets, but cities can carry a tax bite of their own. Even if you live in a state that has no income tax, your city may levy a variety of taxes that could eat away the entire benefit of living in an income tax-free state, including property taxes, sales taxes and auto taxes. Consider all the costs before you move to one of these cities, and understand that rates may change based on your family's income level.

Great Ways to Get Charitable Tax Deductions

Generally, when you give money to a charity, you can use the amount of that donation as a deduction on your tax return. However, not all charities qualify as tax-deductible organizations. While there are many types of charities, they must all meet certain criteria to be classified by the IRS as tax-deductible organizations. There are legitimate tax-deductible organizations in many popular categories, such as those listed below.

A Freelancer's Guide to Taxes

Freelancing certainly has its benefits, but it can result in a few complications come tax time. The Internal Revenue Service considers freelancers to be self-employed, so if you earn income as a freelancer you must file your taxes as a business owner. While you can take additional deductions if you are self-employed, you'll also face additional taxes in the form of the self-employment tax. Here are things to consider as a freelancer when filing your taxes.

Tax Deductions for Voluntary Interest Payments on Student Loans

Most taxpayers who pay interest on student loans can take a tax deduction for the expense ? and you can do this regardless of whether you itemize tax deductions on your return. The rules for claiming the deduction are the same whether the interest payments were required or voluntary.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

1 Comment

Filter by:

tax preparation and compliance should not be a major job sector.

what if congress scrapped the 73,000 pages of tax code
and everyone just paid a small national sales tax with no deductions for anyone for anything?
they would probably collect more, everyone would pay some, the rich would pay more, we could close down the IRS, congress would have a lot less power, and April 15 would just be another spring day.

April 11 2014 at 7:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply