As I pay my quarterly real estate taxes I am constantly reminded that paying taxes is a ongoing expense that never ends. Even the day of 15 reminds me of April 15; taxes are due every year. It is like remembering someone’s birthday. Well, it is a birthday. This year the 1040 Tax form turned 100years old. Ok, I am a geek because I know that.
The Internal Revenue Service deserves birthday cards with their checks addressed to it’s headquarters on Constitution Avenue in our nation’s capital of Washington D.C. The Federal Income Taxes form 1040 turned 100 this year. In 1913 the form had only one page of instructions which probably made people very happy. The original form hangs on display in the corridor of the IRS building.
Then, only about 3% of the population was subjected to the income tax. Today, 54% of Americans pay income taxes. Gone is the single page of instructions from 1913 with it’s deductions from losses due to shipwreck. Now the tax code is more than 73 thousand pages long. Just figuring out what we have to pay eats up an estimated 6 Billion hours of our time each year from tax professionals and us tearing our hair out looking at the forms each year.
Everyone loves to hate the IRS even if you like what your tax dollars are paying for. We just don’t want our money being taken from us. We have to constantly remind ourselves that the IRS has nothing to do with the tax code. It is Congress that passes the taxes. We can blame Congress now but it was the American people that passed the 16th Amendment of the Constitution that made the Income Tax possible.
At first it affected only the rich who were only 7% of the population. Only 4 years later when we entered World War 1 that rate grew to 77%. Most people were rich before the stock market crash. They even had a famous song, “We’re In The Money.” Then who cared if we paid taxes, everyone had plenty of money and that money paid for our famous bridges and highways.
Even the Boston Tea Party, the grandpa of tax rebellions, was less a revolt about paying taxes but more a revolt about objecting to tax loop holes. Americans did not want to pay money back to British companies. The taxpayers then and now are the ones paying the bills and we want to know what we are paying for. That disclosure has never changes in citizens sentiments.
Americans want it all. We want paved roads, we want stop signs, we want a good Army, we want Social Security, yet we don’t want the government taking our money by force. Try not paying your taxes. Your wages will be garnished or you will go to jail for tax evasion. The government will take your money by force if you don’t pay up. Paying taxes is not robbing you of your freedom. It is just making you pay for the things you want, what you voted for.
According to a new research study by a company called Pew Research Center out this year, a majority of Americans, 56% dislike or hate doing their taxes. But 71% of Americans believe that it is a moral obligation to report all of their income to the tax collector. Taxes is what we pay for a civilized society. So, given the question, Do you pay your fair share of federal income tax? Only 2% said less than fair share. 34% said we pay more than our fair share and most of us said we pay about the right amount in taxes. Happy birthday form 1040, it looks like you will have many more birthdays to come year after year.