As the individual tax deadline of April 15th approaches, I started to ask myself why April 15th and not some other day? It turns out that taxes weren’t always due on April 15th. According to an article by Ellen Terrell on the Library of Congress website:
April 15th has not always been the filing deadline. March 1st was the date specified by Congress in 1913, after the passage of the 16th amendment. In 1918 Congress pushed the date forward to March 15th, where it remained until the tax overhaul of 1954, when the date was again moved ahead to April 15th.
A Brief (Hopefully Not Too Boring) History of Individual Income Taxes in the United States…
According to the official Internal Revenue Service website, historical highlights of income taxes in the United States are:
1862 – President Lincoln signs into law the first income tax to raise revenue to help pay for Civil War expenses.
1867 – Congress cuts the income tax rate due to public opposition.
1872 – The 1862 income tax is repealed.
1894 – The Wilson Tariff Act revives the income tax.
1895 – The Supreme Court rules the new income tax unconstitutional.
1909 – President Taft recommends a constitutional amendment to give the government the power to tax income.
1913 – The 16th Amendment is ratified. The amendment states:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
The first Form 1040 is introduced at this time as well. Want to see what this 1040 looked like? Check it out here. Looks pretty similar to today’s 1040, just simpler.
1942 – Congress passes the Revenue Act of 1942, increasing taxes and the number of Americans subject to income taxation.
1944 – Congress passes the Individual Income Tax Act, creating the Form 1040 standard deductions.
1954 – The filing deadline for individual tax returns changes from March 15 to April 15.
So why was April 15th selected as the individual tax deadline? In a Fortune Magazine article entitled Why Is Tax Day April 15?, Jessica Sung cited an IRS spokesman who said the move to the April 15th date “spread out the peak workload.” Sung’s article offers another explanation:
Turns out that as the income tax applied to more of the middle class, the government had to issue more refunds. “Pushing the deadline back gives the government more time to hold on to the money,” says Ed McCaffery, a University of Southern California law professor and tax guru.
Makes sense, although I got my refund pretty quickly this year! I think it was 10 days between when I filed my return and when the refund was deposited into my back account. No complaints here!