EACH YEAR in the United States, an estimated 6.1 billion hours are spent complying with the federal tax code. I’m pretty sure at least half of those hours are spent by me.
With less than two weeks remaining before this year’s tax returns are due, I’ve barely made a dent in my stack of forms, receipts, and instructions. Each year the prospect of doing my taxes looms more daunting and dismal than the year before. Each year I wonder where I’ll find the time, never mind the patience, to get it done. Each year’s tax ordeal seems to require more mental energy, more double-checking of math, more scouring of check registers and credit-card statements and brokerage records. And yet when I finally hit that “Send’’ button, I’m less certain than ever that I haven’t inadvertently screwed something up. And if that’s true for someone like me, whose financial arrangements are not especially abstruse, how much more miserable tax season must be for taxpayers whose circumstances are more elaborate.