The Day to Pay

April 15, 1919
Tax Day

Uh oh, it’s April 15. Even if you don’t know what that means, your parents probably do–it’s Tax Day. Income taxes are usually due on this day from all employed Americans. Income taxes have become such a common part of our lives, that it is hard to imagine that, at one time, there was no income tax in the U.S.

From its beginning, this country has been very expensive to run, and the government has been responsible for raising the money to pay those expenses. Before the Revolutionary War, whiskey and tobacco taxes provided most of the revenue. After the war, however, the government needed more money.

When the country was young, it struggled to raise funds from the 13 original states–$15 million from each state in 1779 and more in following years. The government collected the first income tax during the Civil War, but only temporarily. President Grover Cleveland tried to start up regular yearly income taxes in 1894, but the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. For supporters of the income tax, that meant amending the Constitution, which the government finally did in 1913 with the 16th Amendment. From that point on, Congress could legally collect taxes on incomes.

Homer S. Cummings, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the administration of President Woodrow Wilson, counted the income tax as among the most notable accomplishments of the Democratic Party. The funds raised from it have been used for running many parts of the government. How much one pays depends on yearly earnings and certain deductions. Collecting and figuring taxes employs many people such as the staff of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), accountants, and this public tax worker, who was working hard back in 1936.

Ask your parents how they file their income tax return. But you might want to wait a day or two–they may be busy trying to make the deadline!