History of Tax Day


This year, in an unprecedented move not seen since last year’s unprecedented move, the Internal Revenue Service has extended the deadline for Federal Income Tax filing. This year, instead of being due today, April 15, the new deadline for individual tax filers is May 17 due to the Coronavirus pandemic… at least for individual tax filers.

However, if you’re an individual who has to pay estimated taxes quarterly, those are still due for Quarter 1 of 2021 on April 15, even though the 2020 extension isn’t due till May 17. Got it?

It turns out that the 15th of nearly every month is a tax due date — beware the Ides!

  • Partnerships are due March 15.
  • Corporations and individual taxes are due April 15.
  • Foreign entities are due June 15… with the extension for all of those six months later.


  • Quarterly estimated taxes are due in April, June, September, and December.
  • Trusts and Nonprofits have their own dates.

Many states are following suit by extending the deadline for state taxes, but the new dates differ by state. Previously, in some years, the deadline might be moved after April 15 due to civil holidays, weekends, or inclement weather. It’s then pushed to the next day of the week. But not during these unprecedented years. Oh, and don’t forget certain states often fall a month after federal dates!

Tax Day is the anniversary of the celebration for the elation we feel when we receive a tax refund until we realize it was our own money in the first place and the government has been “borrowing” it from us for the better part of a year and paying us no interest for the privilege. The holiday is celebrated with the mention of tax credits, exemptions, deductions, write-offs, and dependents… some of which may be the same.


Ancient Tax Day

Tiberius Tribute Denarius

Tiberius Tribute Denarius

Back during the time of Jesus, this season was referred to as

“therefore render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

…suggesting that the image (eikon) on the face of the coin indicated to whom the tax was due, in contrast to man, who is made in the image of God.

History of Tax Day

In America, the Federal Income Tax was first instituted as part of the Revenue Act of 1861 to help fund the Civil War. But it was later repealed, re-adopted, and ultimately found unconstitutional in 1895 because it violated the rule that direct taxes be apportioned among the states. However, it differed from today’s Income Tax in that back then, it was based on assessments, not voluntary tax returns.

In 1913, the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave Congress the authority to tax all income without regard to the apportionment requirement with a filing deadline of March 1. This was changed to March 15 in 1918 and then to April 14 in 1955.


Modern Tax Day

For Tax Accountants, this is called the “busy season,” as they put in nights and weekends to finish tax returns. If they’re corporate tax accountants, they do it again in October.


Tax Day Terminology

Here are some helpful terms as you prepare your tax forms:

  • Extension: get out of jail free pass for not filing by the deadline, but only for a limited time. You can file this year on October 15, but you have to pay by May 17 to avoid penalties.
  • Coffee: what tax accountants convert into tax returns
  • Starbucks: a place you cannot deduct as a workspace
  • Dependent: not your dog
  • Accrual: the kind of world it is out there

Death and Taxes

At this time, two things are inevitable: death and taxes. The latter, though, is the gift that keeps on giving.



Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

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About billpetro

Bill Petro has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.

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