At over 4 million words and an edit rate of more than once per day, the U.S. tax code is a constantly evolving labyrinth of exceptions, special conditions, and byzantine bureaucracy that (let’s face it) most people don’t understand. Americans spend an estimated 6 billion hours each year doing taxes or jumping through tax-related hoops — that’s nearly 25 hours for every person above the age of 18. We imagine most of it is spent finding creative ways to curse the Internal Revenue Service, creating voodoo dolls of Uncle Sam, or simply staring at the wall in a defeated, mind-numbing rage.
If you’re like most Americans, though, you just bite the bullet, hire a professional, and wipe your hands of the whole mess. According to a report from Nina Olsen, the National Taxpayer Advocate, 60 percent of Americans hire a professional to shoulder the soul-crushing burden of tax preparation. This is great, if you can afford it. What’s 25 hours of your time worth?
More from Wall St. Cheat Sheet: Is Your Paycheck Suffering From Obamacare Symptoms?
For those who can’t or don’t want to use professional assistance, there are really just two roads to follow. Either you resign yourself to your fate and, like 10 percent of Americans, file your taxes without any assistance — or you use commercial software that can help expedite the process. Whatever road you take, though, it helps to have a certain level of background knowledge about the tax code. In particular, it helps to know which taxes or deductions (especially those that apply to you) are changing. Here are some tax changes that took effect in 2013 that apply to many Americans, courtesy of the IRS.