History of Tax Day: Still April 15?


Generally, April 15 is the deadline for filing income tax, kind of.

It has been said by tax accountants that:

“taxes will never be due on April 15 again.”

The Coronavirus pandemic delayed deadlines to July 15 in 2020, and May 17 in 2021. Natural disasters and public emergencies have brought extensions in many states.

Historically, Congress initially set the income tax filing deadline in March, but it revised the Internal Revenue Code in 1954, moving it to April 15, where it remains unless it conflicts with a weekend or holiday.


But wait.

  • If you live in Massachusetts or Maine, you get two additional days to report your taxes. Patriots’ Day is observed on the third Monday of April in these two New England States. The following day, Tuesday, April 16th, is the Emancipation Day holiday celebrated in Washington, D.C.–not to be confused with the National Emancipation Day on June 19. So, the deadline for Massachusetts and Maine taxpayers to file 2023 income tax returns will be the next business day of April 17, 2024.
  • National Disaster declarations have extended the deadlines in parts of Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia.


Tax Day Filing Extension Gotcha

While taxpayers may cheer the extension of the filing deadline, this had a catastrophic effect on the California budget last year. How did this happen?

During the pandemic, California had record budget surpluses–$98B in 2022. For the fiscal year 2023-2024, it had a spending plan for the general fund of $308B. California experienced numerous natural disasters in 2023 such that the Internal Revenue Service extended the tax filing deadline for almost all Californians from April to October… then to November. This was a delay in receiving tax revenue for over half a year. The California State Franchise Tax Board did the same.

When tax revenues were finally counted, they were less than expected. How much less? $68B less. In other words, the state didn’t have all its tax revenue tallied by the time lawmakers passed the 2023-24 budget in June.


Beware the 15th!

April 15 isn’t the only tax day. It turns out that the 15th of nearly every month is a tax due date – beware the Ides!

  • Partnerships are due March 15.
  • Certain foreign taxpayers‘ returns are due June 15… with the extension for all of those six months later.
  • Corporations and individual taxes are (usually) due April 15.


  • Quarterly estimated taxes are due in April, June, September, and December for corporations; April, June, September, and January for individuals; and states play by their own rules and have the same due dates at the beginning of a month.
  • Trusts and Nonprofits have their own dates.


The Joy of Tax Day

Tax Day is the anniversary of the celebration of the joy we feel when we receive a tax refund—until we realize it was our own money in the first place. The government had 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

“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 15 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.
  • 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

Two things are inevitable: death and taxes. The latter, though, is the gift that keeps on giving… or taking.




Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

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About billpetro

Bill Petro writes articles on history, technology, pop culture, and travel. He 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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