Track the companies that matter to you. It's FREE! Click one of these fan favorites to get started: Apple; Google; Ford.



Much Ado About Taxes

Don't let it get away!

Keep track of the stocks that matter to you.

Help yourself with the Fool's FREE and easy new watchlist service today.

When gas was more than $4 a gallon, consuming more than 10% of some households' income, many people probably wished that those in Washington who represent us actually experienced life as we do.

Along similar lines, and given that we're in the thick of tax season, a recent Politico survey asked our senators a few questions about taxes. Interestingly, of the 58 who answered, only two said that they prepare their own taxes. The rest pay others to do so. This is probably because the average senator feels too busy to deal with tax returns. And many of them might have some complicated issues to address in their returns as well. Still, I wonder ... if they actually sat down and tried to prepare a tax return by hand -- perhaps a simple one for their child -- it might help them appreciate just how difficult and complicated tax forms have become.

As I explained in a recent article on our national taxpayer advocate, Nina Olson, our tax code includes nearly 4 million words, and preparing returns costs taxpayers about 7.6 billion hours and $193 billion each year.

See how that $193 billion dwarfs the amount spent on taxes by some well-known, massive companies:


Corporate tax paid during past 12 months

ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  )

$36.5 billion

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  )

$7.1 billion

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  )

$5.2 billion


$4.4 billion

CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS  )

$2.2 billion

Boeing (NYSE: BA  )

$1.3 billion

General Electric (NYSE: GE  )

$1.1 billion

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard and Poor's.

In fact, that amount represents more than half of all corporate taxes collected by the government in its 2007 fiscal year.

I tried to prepare my own return by hand just once and was appalled at how tricky it is. If you need to change one number somewhere, you often then have to backtrack and change all the numbers it influences all over the return. It can get messy and confusing, quickly. Here's hoping that Congress listens to Olson's plea for simplification.

Meanwhile, you can aim to be more successful with your taxes than many government officials have been. Of the responding senators, 16% were aware of mistakes in their returns, and recent headlines have pointed out others' errors, from prospective cabinet members to former vice-presidential candidates.

So keep your eyes open while dealing with taxes, Fool. And good luck!

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of General Electric, Wal-Mart, and Microsoft. Wal-Mart and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (7)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 843269, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/24/2016 10:09:34 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 53 minutes ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,223.03 77.32 0.43%
S&P 500 2,151.33 10.17 0.47%
NASD 5,309.83 52.43 1.00%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

10/24/2016 4:01 PM
BA $137.45 Up +1.82 +1.34%
Boeing CAPS Rating: ****
CVS $88.00 Up +0.59 +0.67%
CVS Health CAPS Rating: ****
GE $28.92 Down -0.06 -0.21%
General Electric CAPS Rating: ****
IBM $150.57 Up +0.94 +0.63%
IBM CAPS Rating: ****
MSFT $61.00 Up +1.34 +2.25%
Microsoft CAPS Rating: ****
WMT $69.19 Up +0.85 +1.24%
Wal-Mart Stores CAPS Rating: ***
XOM $86.91 Up +0.29 +0.33%
ExxonMobil CAPS Rating: ****