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Editorial: Filing taxes a way of life in the U.S.

According to an old saying, only two things are certain: death and what happened Thursday.

Tax day.

On Thursday, there were the usual last-minutes filers, the weeping and gnashing of teeth and -- thanks to the development of the tea party movement -- actual protests throughout the area and the country.

Many last-minute filers are late every year. For some it's just a matter of lifestyle. They put everything off until the final day, until seconds before the buzzer.

For others, filing on the 15th is a strategy. While this may have changed over the years, statistics used to indicate that the later taxpayers file their returns, the less likely they are to be audited.

Then there's a group that combine lateness with gnashing teeth.

Some folks just dread the unrelenting complexity of the process and put it off as long as they can.

That's understandable, especially for people who don't use a computer program or tax service. Over the years, our tax laws have become so complex that federal regulations alone could fill a shelf with books as thick as several New York City phone books.

For some people, that complexity is just too much. They say we should create a simpler system, maybe a flat tax or a national sales tax or value-added tax.

When it's pointed out that a simple system, such a flat tax, places a greater burden on people with lower incomes, some simplicity advocates suggest things like a modified flat tax.

And the complexity express just starts chugging along in a new direction.

Fairness is another complaint a lot of folks have about the tax system. Depending on your point of view, either the rich or the poor get off too easy.

The rich avoid paying taxes because they can hire experts to find loopholes, it's commonly believed.

Actually the rich are paying more taxes, according to a study reported on CNN Thursday, but that's because they make the big bucks and are more likely to be audited.

Their incomes have increased in recent years at a greater rate than the middle class. When you compare who pays a greater percentage of their incomes in taxes, it's the middle class.

Then there's the 45 percent of U.S. households that, according to an Associated Press report recently published in the Tribune, pay no federal income tax.

According to the CNN report, half of that group made no income.

They'd probably prefer being in a position to pay taxes.

While we may disagree about how much taxes we should pay or how they should be spent, most of us understand that we need to pay some taxes.

After all, taxes may make us want to cry, but paying them is much better than that other certainty.