20 Surprising Facts Most Taxpayers Don't Know

By Meredith Margrave
February 01, 2012

1) In 1913, the federal tax code was 400 pages long. Today, it's grown to about 70,000 pages. That's 50 times longer than Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

2) According to one count, there are over 3.7 million words in the tax code.

3) Since the beginning of 2001, there have been over 3,250 changes to the tax code -- an average of more than one a day. More than 500 changes were made in 2008 alone.

4) The IRS sends out an average of eight billion pieces of paper every tax season. If each sheet were laid out end-to-end, it would wrap around the earth 28 times.

5) In order for the IRS to print all that paper, over 300,000 trees are cut down every year. (Just one more reason to consider filing online.)

6) Tax Day is... April 17? The date when tax returns must be filed with the IRS usually lands on April 15. However, if April 15 is a weekend or holiday, Tax Day is moved to the next business day. In 2012, April 15 will land on the weekend, so Tax Day is bumped to the following Monday.

7) Every year, U.S. taxpayers and businesses spend roughly 7.6 billion hours preparing their taxes.

8) According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are roughly 311 million people in the United States. That's 24.4 hours of tax-prep work for every man, woman, and child in the country.

9) According to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, if "tax compliance" were an industry, it would take 3.8 million people working full-time, year round to consume 7.6 billion hours. By these calculations, the "tax compliance" industry would be one of the United States' largest.

10) The U.S. tax code is so confusing, that 82% of taxpayers pay for help.

11) 60% of taxpayers hire a professional accountant or tax preparer.

12) 22% of taxpayers use some form of tax-prep software.

13) Taxpayers spend $27.7 billion a year preparing their taxes.

14) A good portion of those billions of dollars goes to the million or so accountants that are hired each tax season.

15) Even the head of the IRS uses a tax preparer. Douglas Shulman, the head of the Internal Revenue Service, gets his taxes done by a professional.

16) Dividend stock investors are taxed twice -- once when the company pays taxes on its earnings, and again when the investor pays taxes on the dividend income.

#-ad_banner_2-#17) The IRS loves whistleblowers. Report your company for tax evasion, and you can earn 30% of the amount collected.

18) The babysitting industry is rife with tax evaders. According to the New York Times, 80% to 95% of people who employ babysitters, housekeepers and other home aides don't properly report it. [Did you know that certain occupations can get you flagged for an IRS audit? For more on how to avoid an audit, check out 6 Ways to Avoid an IRS Tax Audit in 2011.]

19) In April 2010, over 700 wealthy Americans told the government "It's okay -- tax me more!" when they donated the money they saved from the Bush Tax Cuts. Among the philanthropists: Bill Gates, Sr. and Richard Rockefeller. [If you're in the top 5% of earners (over $200,000 household income and/or over $1 million net assets), and want to take the Tax Fairness Pledge, visit the Responsible Wealth website.]

20) Each year, over one million people forget to sign their tax return before filing it. While this is by far the easiest part of the process, it's also the most common mistake people make!