HISTORY OF TAX DAY
This year, in an unprecedented move [official word for 2020], the deadline is extended for 90 days for Federal Income Tax filing to today, July 15, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 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 this unprecedented year.
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.
Back during the time of Jesus, this season was referred to as
“therefore render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”
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 But it was later repealed, re-adopted, and ultimately found unconstitutional in 1895 because it violated the rule that direct taxes be apportioned among the states.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.
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.
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.
- 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
At this time, in the middle of July, two things are inevitable: death and taxes. The later though, is the gift that keeps on giving.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian