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It’s That Day, Again!

Every April 15th (barring weekends), America’s tax season comes to a close. As millions postmark their paperwork, file their taxes online, and make big plans for their refunds, let’s take a moment to explore the history of the day Uncle Sam comes calling and how it evolved over time.

Lincoln, the Civil War, and the Revenue Act

Signed into law by President Lincoln on August 5, 1861, as a means to finance the Civil War, the Revenue Act was the United States’ first federal income tax. Levying the earnings of anyone making at least $800 a year, the measure operated on a graduated scale, imposing the tax on gains from employment, property, imported goods, and vocation.

Over the decades, income taxes would be repealed, then later revived and collected on whatever industries were thriving, such as tobacco and alcohol in 1868. In 1895, the U.S. Supreme Court even deemed income taxes unconstitutional because they weren’t proportionate to the states’ populations. It wasn’t until the Corporate Tax Act was introduced by Congress in 1909, later modified into the 16th Amendment and ratified in 1913, that the U.S. tax system we know today was put in place.

Tax Date Shuffle

Originally scheduled on March 1, 1914, approximately one year after the amendment was adopted, Tax Day shifted to March 15th in 1918, then to April 15th in 1955. Although speculation as to why this happened is widespread, it’s believed that the date was moved to accommodate for the intense IRS employee workload. Some have wondered, however, if a possible reason is the increased interest the government can earn when certain taxes are withheld longer and refunds issued later.

Dreaming Big

04152013_taxday_pigAs you make your way to the post office, tax preparer, or if you file online, no doubt you’ll be dreaming of what to do with your refund. Here are a few tips on how you can make the most of it:

  • Invest for retirement
  • Save for a rainy day
  • Pay down debt
  • Donate to charity
  • Broaden your career skills
  • Take that dream vacation
  • Weekend shopping spree
  • Cup of coffee