People may not think of federal government regulations as hidden taxes, but their total cost drains nearly $15,000 a year from the budget of every American family.
"Federal environmental, safety and health, and economic regulations cost hundreds of billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars annually over and above the official federal outlays that dominate policy debate," said Clyde Wayne Crews, vice president for policy and director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
For 20 years, Crews has produced a report on the growing size and cost of government regulation called "Ten Thousand Commandments."
As of 2012, Crews estimated that the cost of all federal regulations exceeded $1.8 trillion, which breaks down to a stunning $14,768 for each U.S. household.
To put that in perspective, consider that most American families pay about half that in federal income tax.
Government regulations constitute hidden taxes built in to the cost of virtually everything you buy, from healthcare and groceries to housing and transportation.
For example, the Heritage Foundation recently estimated that new fuel economy standards by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will add as much as $1,800 to the price of a new car.
And research firm NDP Consulting said in a study last year that EPA rules governing power generation will increase utility bills for American families by an average of 6.6% annually.
The Hidden Tax Monster Keeps Growing
In a Gallup poll taken last fall, 47% of Americans said there is too much regulation, with the rest split between "just right" and "too little."
But if Americans knew how much government regulation actually cost them, the number saying there's too much regulation no doubt would climb much higher.
So why don't people know about these hidden taxes?
For one thing, government regulations get little media attention. But it's not an easy subject to talk about because the government does such a poor job of tracking how much they cost.
"Unlike federal taxation and spending, there is no official accounting of total regulatory costs," the Heritage Foundation said in a report on government rules it released this month.
That's exactly why Crews started to compile his annual "Ten Thousand Commandments."
The reports have chronicled the relentless expansion of government bureaucracy at the root of the rise in the hidden taxes resulting from the bloat of government regulations.
To see just how bad this problem has become, take a look at these stats from this year's edition of Crews' "Ten Thousand Commandments" report: