A statement by IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman got some attention today.

On C-Span Shulman talked about using a tax preparer:

“I’ve used one for years. I find it convenient. I find the tax code complex so I use a preparer.”

A lot of bloggers and readers are using the statement to argue the tax laws are too complex. 

That’s like saying Conan O’Brien is too juvenile for the Tonight Show. In other words, duh!  Tell us something we didn’t know already!

Nevertheless, it is a good soundbite to hear the Commissioner of the IRS “admit” that he doesn’t (can’t?) prepare his own taxes, whether it’s due to complexity or convenience.

Shulman rightly points out the ball is in Congress’s court, not his.  Bush put together a task force that studied ways to overhaul and simplify the tax laws. The task force released a report in 2005 that included some compelling ideas, but the report was largely ignored.

I’m a tax lawyer, which means the marginal value of my labor rises as the tax laws get more complex because fewer people can handle their own tax affairs.  Despite it being against my own financial interest, I would love nothing more than to see Congress simplify the tax system. 

When I think about how much money we spend to obey the tax laws, through government expenditures for enforcement as well as private expenditures for compliance, and then I realize that none of that money is used to build something or develop something or help somebody, well, it’s a thought I don’t like to dwell on.