Americans Say Taxes Worse than Trip to Dentist

Seventy percent of Americans say the tax code is too complicated and half would prefer a trip to the dentist, but few want radical changes in the system, according to a new AP-Ipsos poll.

Poll: Americans Say Taxes Too Complicated (AP)

Most Americans think federal income taxes are too complicated, but they’re not eager to simplify tax preparation by getting rid of some deductions and tax credits, according to an AP-Ipsos poll. Forty-five percent of those polled support eliminating them, while 51 percent oppose that approach.

Millions of Americans are scrambling to meet the April 15 tax deadline. Many acknowledge they dread preparing the tax forms. “Anybody who says they don’t mind their taxes is lying,” said businessman William Long of Ferris, Texas. “I definitely put them off until the last minute, even when money is coming back. I just don’t want to deal with them.”

Seven in 10 said their federal taxes are too complicated, according to a poll conducted for The Associated Press by Ipsos-Public Affairs. The survey found 49 percent would prefer a trip to the dentist while 48 percent would rather prepare their taxes.

Filing one’s income taxes is an incredible burden unless filing the 1040EZ is an option. Even professional tax preparation is unhelpful, since one has to gather the incredible array of supporting documentation even in order to have someone else do them. Even more than dealing with the DMV, this is the most onerous routine task of citizenship.

The problem, of course, is that any system that aims at influencing behavior in addition to collecting revenue is going to be complicated. If the only goal was collecting taxes, everyone could file something like the 1040EZ. Because we have decided to use the tax code to encourage/subsidize everything from home ownership to the purchase of hybrid vehicles, though, the system is a nightmare.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hal says:

    And of course you neglected the most entertaining bit of this poll. That being, despite preparing taxes being worse than the dentist, the flat tax – i.e. the “simple tax” is DOA.

    Most people don’t like the flat tax idea, with 57 percent of those surveyed saying people with higher incomes should pay a higher tax rate. Only 40 percent thought tax rates should be the same for everyone.


  2. BigFire says:

    Seeing that I’m the poster boy for IRS’s BOHA (Single, no dependent, no mortgage, no write-offs), my taxes are surprisingly easy to do (2 hours with TaxCut). Of course, my payment to Uncle Sam and the Governator increases every single year.

  3. JakeV says:

    I have never understood the idea that the flat tax is simple. Figuring out how much tax to pay based on your income is incredibly simple. You flip to the back of the book, find your taxable income, and read the number. Not complicated.

    The thing that’s not simple is figuring out your taxable income. How would a flat tax change this?

  4. James Joyner says:

    JakeV: A flat tax would change is because ALL income would be TAXABLE income. The reason they’re different is because of all the deductions and exemptions.

    Hal: The first sentence of the excerpt and the entire last paragraph deal with that point. People want simplicity and yet they want government to subsidize them. You can have one or the other.

  5. John Thacker says:

    Of course, if we wait long enough, the non-indexed AMT will impose a flat tax by stealth on nearly everyone.

  6. JakeV says:

    James– Couldn’t we make all income taxable income while retaining progressivity? That is, eliminate deductions and exemptions, but still have tax rate depend on income bracket?

    Sorry if I’m being obtuse here– I don’t know much about taxation, but I don’t see the connection between flatness and simplicity.

  7. Rick DeMent says:

    James seems to be under the quaint illusion that a flat-tax would be magically immune to all of the same distortions as a progressive tax. There is no reason whatsoever that the current tax system could not simply make all income taxable and lower the overall marginal rates while maintaining progressivity.

    The flat tax will be pretty much the same after an Armey of lobbyists for this kind of income or that kind gets done with it.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Rick: Read the flippin’ post.