Apparently, there's a good reason the regular 1040 is referred to as the "long" form -- it takes the average taxpayer more than a full day to prepare the form with three common schedules, according to an annual study of tax complexity.
Americans spent roughly 6.6 billion hours preparing their taxes this year, and more and more of them are using paid preparers, according to the National Taxpayers Union.
The overall number of paperwork hours generated by the tax laws actually declined in 2002-2003 -- most likely due to the fact that fewer people were filing tax returns, according to the NTU. However, the group says that that figure headed upward again in 2004-2005.
The group estimates that the increase in the tax law's complexity alone has added roughly 1 billion hours in annual paperwork over the last 10 years. For the sixth year in a row, the average American spent more than 24 hours to prepare the 1040 "long" form with Schedules A, B and D. This year, those long-form filers spent an average of 26 hours, 48 minutes -- an increase of 26 percent since 1995, but nearly two hours less than the average for 2003.
At 11 hours, 21 minutes, the 1040A, or "short" form, along with the common Schedule 1, takes nearly as long to prepare as the "long" form did just nine years ago, but 11 minutes less than it did in 2003, according to NTU.
The basic form for the alternative minimum tax, which is expected to snare nearly 35 million taxpayers by 2010, is 55 lines long, with an estimated completion time of 3 hours, 53 minutes.
As of March 18, 61 percent of returns received by the Internal Revenue Service had a paid-preparer signature, according to the NTU, which reports that the number of taxpayers using paid professionals has grown by approximately 60 percent since 1980, and by nearly 30 percent since 1990.
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