Income tax forms are "too hard, too complicated, take too much paper and take too much time," the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service said this week.
Fred Goldberg told a conference of small-business owners they should demand better treatment and less gobbledygook from the IRS."The American people aren't crooks," he said. "They're trying to do what's right."
Goldberg said the fact that one-third of businesses make mistakes on their payroll taxes may be an indication that tax law is too difficult to understand. He said taxes on pensions are so confusing that many retirees can't figure out how much they owe.
He noted that the new taxpayer bill of rights won't have much impact if taxpayers can't figure out what those rights are by reading IRS notices and publications.
One problem, he said, is that Congress has made tax law more complicated while claiming to make it more understandable. "When these guys get to simplification, hold your wallets and double your accountants," he said.
Goldberg said a tax-simplification bill now being considered in the House Ways and Means Committee is the "best shot" at reform in 10 years if it isn't loaded down with self-defeating amendments.
His remarks came at a session on dealing with the IRS attended by about 200 members of the National Federation of Independent Business, many of whom have had unpleasant tax confrontations.
Goldberg advised the business owners to complain to IRS supervisors if they encounter hostile tax agents, but one owner said he had to take his case to court to prove he was complying with tax law.
"That makes me angry, man," Goldberg said.