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Americans spend 6.1 billion hours on their taxes

By Charles Riley, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Filing taxes takes too long, costs too much money and is far too overwhelming a process for taxpayers.

That's the message from national taxpayer advocate Nina Olson, the watchdog charged with monitoring the Internal Revenue Service.

"There has been near universal agreement for years that the tax code is broken and needs to be fixed," Olson said in statement that accompanied her annual report to Congress released Wednesday."Yet no broad-based attempt to reform the tax code has been made."

Olson said the need for reform is clear.

Her analysis of IRS data shows that taxpayers and businesses spend 6.1 billion hours a year complying with tax-filing requirements.

"If tax compliance were an industry, it would be one of the largest in the United States," the report says. "To consume 6.1 billion hours, the 'tax industry' requires the equivalent of more than three million full-time workers."

Olson is a government official whose job is to highlight for Congress the most serious problems facing taxpayers. While it's probably not news for most Americans that the tax code is confusing, the report also points to serious problems with IRS enforcement of the code.

The IRS has continued to aggressively slap liens and other "hard-core" enforcement tools on taxpayers who are seriously delinquent in their payments.

The number of liens filed by the IRS has increased 550% over the last decade, a practice that has real consequences for consumers.

"Increasingly, employers, mortgage lenders, landlords, car dealerships, auto insurance companies, and credit card issuers utilize credit reports, so a tax lien has the potential to render someone unemployable, unable to obtain housing, and unable to obtain car insurance or a credit card, at least at reasonable rates, for many years into the future," Olson said.  To top of page

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