Just as you begin recovering from the shock of paying last year’s taxes, along comes a report claiming you are really paying far more.

In a 24-page study, Laffer Associates, an economic research and consulting firm in Nashville, finds that the U.S. tax burden is actually 30 percent greater than it appears.

The culprit? Complexity, according to the study.

Dealing with federal taxes and trying to dodge them costs the economy an extra $431.1 billion per year, says the report.

Here’s how the firm calculates that:

* $377.9 billion for the time taxpayers and companies must spend organizing records and filling out forms to comply with the tax code.

* $31.5 billion directly paid by taxpayers and companies to buy software and hire professionals to help with their tax returns.

* $12.4 billion for administering the IRS.

* $9.3 billion for individuals and companies to deal with tax audits.

The National Taxpayers Union estimates that the tax compliance industry employs more people than the five biggest Fortune 500 companies, namely Wal-Mart, UPS, McDonald’s, IBM and Citigroup.

“Without diminishing in any way the professionalism of tax attorneys, accountants and financial planners, all of these efforts produce nothing other than, well, tax compliance,” Arthur Laffer wrote in a Wall Street Journal column.

There is little doubt that the federal tax code has exploded in complexity over the past 10 years.

In 2001, the code had 1.4 million words. By 2010, that had grown to 3.8 million. Over the past decade, there have been approximately 4,428 tax code changes, including an estimated 579 changes in 2010 alone.

According to the IRS, tax code complexity is the single biggest problem the agency faces.

The IRS now receives 110 million calls per year and is unable to answer 25 percent of them. When it does answer a question, the IRS itself provides the wrong answer 29 percent of the time.

But the true hidden cost of a complex tax code may be incalculable. This, according to the Laffer study, involves U.S. companies “misallocating resources” to produce the best tax outcome.

This, according to the report, happens when companies select a less-productive path simply because it produces greater tax benefits.

Complexity grows in two significant ways.

First, as firms and individuals themselves seek favorable tax breaks from Congress. This saves them money but often results in more complexity.

The tax code is now riddled with special exemptions, credits and allowances, many of which no longer serve their original purpose.

Second, complexity grows when Congress imposes new taxes or enacts new regulations without calculating the cost of compliance.

The Affordable Care Act provision calling on companies to file a form for every vendor receiving more than $600 is a case in point.

The provision would have helped collect an estimated $17 billion, but would have resulted in far more than $17 billion in compliance costs. In other words, the tax raised less money than it cost to comply.

As Congress begins to wrestling with trimming the federal deficit, cutting tax code complexity must be a central feature of any plan.

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