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Americans spend more time every year doing their taxes than playing golf—and golf takes ages

Technicians work on a five-foot tower clock
Reuters/Brian Snyder
Time is money.
  • Dan Kopf
By Dan Kopf

Data editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Americans spend approximately 2.65 billion hours preparing and filing their personal income taxes every year, according to the White House. That is more time than Americans spend on any of the following activities in a typical year: arts and crafts, golfing, attending museums, hunting, and dancing.

Based on a 2015 survey of taxpayers, the government estimates that the average American spends 17.6 hours on their individual income tax return. The majority of this time is consumed by record keeping (pdf), followed by time dedicated to tax planning and filling out the actual forms. If that seems high, it’s because the average is pulled by a small number of people who spend an inordinate amount of time doing their taxes.

Still, the burden put on American taxpayers is unusually high. It doesn’t have to be this way. Like many advanced countries, the US government could easily prepare the tax returns for the majority of citizens, since most people get their income from a single employer and earn interest from a single bank. This is why it takes the average Estonian less than five minutes to do their taxes.

Here is a list of things that Americans spend less time on than drudging through their taxes, based on 2015 data:

ActivityHours (in billions)
Completing individual tax returns2.65
Arts and Crafts2.06
Attending meetings, conferences, and trainings1.73
Searching for a job1.59
Weightlifting/Strength training1.14
Taking classes out of personal interest1.04
Attending museums0.68
Doing yoga0.60
Writing out of personal interest0.59
Purchasing gas0.52
Building and repairing furniture0.50
Playing basketball0.48
Watching baseball0.40

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