The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act dramatically simplified the tax code for individuals and could save taxpayers up to $5.4 billion in compliance costs per year, as noted by a recent study released by the Tax Foundation.
The TCJA doubled the standard deduction rate from $6,000 to $12,000, repealed numerous itemized deductions and reduced the scope of the alternative minimum tax. All of these simplified the tax filing process and lowered compliance costs.
Filing taxes is a daunting and time consuming process that costs Americans significant resources. The more complex filing an individual tax return is, the more time and money is spent filing taxes.
Prior to passage of TCJA, Americans spent 2.6 billion hours complying with individual income tax and annual of tax compliance costs totaled $98.68 billion, excluding all other out of pocket filing expenses for filing software and preparation fees.
There are major economic costs that come at the expense of an individual having to spend time complying with tax code rather than using that time for other productive economic activities. For instance, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation estimated that in 2017 out of pocket expenses were estimated to be $31.9 billion. These expenses included money spent on tax preparation, software and other supplies individuals use to file their taxes.
The IRS estimates that the average individual taxpayer spends about 12 hours completing their tax returns and $210 on out of pocket expenses.
Following passage of TCJA, the IRS estimates that there will be a four to seven percent reduction in the time spent completing an individual income tax return. This reduction would amount between 90 and 157.5 million hours saved, and when multiplied by hourly average compensation of $34.17, the compliance cost reductions amount to savings of $3.1 billion to $5.4 billion. This time and cost reduction is a net effect of all of the changes made to individual income taxes in the TCJA – expanded standard reduction rate and AMT reforms.
Because of tax reform, it is estimated that there will be 9 million fewer AMT forms that will be filed.
AMT reforms alone are estimated to save $8.5 billion in compliance costs. Those who file AMT forms are shown to spend almost double the amount of time filing taxes than those who do not. Thus, if it takes 15 or more hours to file an AMT and there are 9 million less forms, 135 million hours will be saved. Since most AMT filers have higher income, a higher average compensation of $62.99 was used to calculate the estimated compliance savings.
Tax reform has resulted in significant savings. Not only has tax reform saved Americans money from individual tax cuts, the simplification of the tax code is now saving Americans even more money by reducing time and money spent complying with the tax code.