A Tax Day 2015 Retrospective

tax_day_2015Over the course of American history, the federal income tax has come and gone as the government needed money. However, in 1913, a constitutional amendment made income taxes a permanent fixture of our economy. Whether you paid or got a refund, most American adults participate in the annual April 15 ritual known as Tax Day.

It’s safe to say that few like to pay taxes. In 1934, Irving Berlin wrote a song entitled “I Paid My Income Tax Today.” Sung by Danny Kaye, the jaunty chorus applauds the patriotic act of paying income tax:

“I paid my income tax today
I never felt so proud before
To be right there with the millions more
Who paid their income tax today
I’m all squared up with the USA
See those bombers in the sky?
Rockefeller helped to build ‘em, so did I
I paid my income tax today”

But even Irving Berlin couldn’t help but add a warning in the third chorus:

“I paid my income tax today
I never cared what Congress spent
But now I’ll watch over ev’ry cent
Examine ev’ry bill they pay
They’ll have to let me have my say
I wrote the Treasury to go slow
Careful, Mister Henry Junior, that’s my dough
I paid my income tax
Now you’ve got all the facts
I know you’ll pay your taxes too”

Perhaps this was the first of the many, many tax protest songs to come?

But, in spite of the customer services glitches experienced by many, Tax Day 2015 came and went, and millions of Americans are enjoying their refunds or bemoaning their fate. Now that a week has passed and some of the sting is gone, let’s put things in perspective and run the numbers:

  • Seven weeks: estimated wait for refunds this year
  • 80%: returns expected to be filed electronically
  • $3,120: average tax refund
  • 80%: percent of filers getting a refund
  • 28 minutes: average wait time when calling the IRS
  • 1 Billion: Hours spent preparing annual tax returns
  • 16 Hours: average time spent preparing and filing a 1040 in 2014

And, some good news, on Friday April 24th, 114 days into 2015, we celebrate Tax Freedom Day, the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year. Tax Freedom Day represents how long Americans as a whole have to work in order to pay the nation’s tax burden.  Of course, Tax Freedom Day varies some state by state.  The earliest Tax Freedom Day is in Louisiana and was on April 2.  However, the residents of Connecticut and New Jersey won’t have their Tax Freedom Day until May 13.

While you probably don’t feel any better about paying taxes, you’re in good company! And maybe next year you’ll be humming that little ditty from Irving Berlin to help ease the pain.

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