What is Tax Day?

Image source: "Tax the rich" mural by Megan Wilson on Clarion Varion San Francisco.jpg by Megan Wilson, is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The 16th Amendment, which was ratified in 1913,  granted Congress the power to collect income taxes. About a year later, Congress named March 1st “Tax Day.” This became the deadline to file and pay personal income taxes, as well as make any IRA contributions to be attributed to the following year.

By 1918, Tax Day was moved to March 15th, then eventually April 15th in 1955. Although the official reason for the date change was said to be in order to spread the workload of IRS employees, there has been speculation to the contrary. Some economists posit that the later filing date allows the government to hold onto money longer before issuing refunds, meaning more interest can be collected for their coffers.

This year, Tax Day is April 17th because April 16th has been celebrated as Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C. since 2005. Unlike various other federal holidays, Tax Day does not mean a day off from work or school. Rather, it is a non-celebratory deadline to file taxes– or be charged for waiting. If one’s personal income taxes are not filed in time, the IRS can add a late fee penalty as well as interest onto whatever amount is owed to the government from income earned the following year.

It can be argued, however, that the Tax Day deadline is superfluous to most Americans. If memes are any indication, all of working and middle class America filed their taxes as soon as their W2s reached their mailboxes. For much of the country, tax refunds are an integral part of the family budget, and mean the difference between fixing a worn down vehicle, planning a family trip, or new school clothes for the children. This does not hold true for the uber-wealthy, and after the GOP tax bill that became law last December, it’s even further from their reality than before.

While most of America must rely on tax refunds or direly need less money withheld from their weekly checks throughout the year, there is a class of citizens who’s excess income and refund check means adding more to their already vast savings accounts. The economy won’t see that money for decades, and, more importantly, those who really could benefit from it won’t either.

So, on this Tax Day, when you make your way to work, because today is not that kind of holiday, spare a thought for those who watch this deadline come and go with little interest, and as close to nothing riding on it as possible. Of course, they won’t be thinking of you, otherwise they wouldn’t have lobbied for such an imbalanced tax bill just a few months ago.

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