25 Fascinating Tax Facts



1. Taxes date back to at least Ancient Egypt.

We can trace documented records of taxation all the way back to Ancient Egypt, sometime around 3000 to 2800 BCE. Apparently, there was a biennial event called the Following of Horus, when the Pharaoh went around collecting taxes in his dual roles as head of state and living incarnation of the god Horus. Taxation is even described in the Bible when Joseph tells the people of Egypt to give a fifth of their crops to Pharaoh.

2. The first taxes implemented in the United States caused a rebellion.

Fans of the Broadway musical Hamilton probably remember the lyric, “Imagine what gon’ happen when you try to tax our whiskey.” What happened was the Whiskey Rebellion, which was largely due to a tax that Alexander Hamilton imposed on—you guessed it—whiskey.

As you might imagine, people were extremely unhappy about it, especially small producers of whiskey, who, because of the way the tax was structured, had to pay nine cents per gallon in taxes, while larger producers were able to get as low as six cents. Violence quickly broke out. Tax officers were assaulted and tarred and feathered for trying to do their jobs, and several people were killed during riots. The Rebellion was eventually quashed in 1794, and the whiskey tax remained in effect until 1802, when Thomas Jefferson repealed it.

3. Abraham Lincoln gave us federal income tax.

Abraham Lincoln signed the Revenue Act in 1861, which imposed the first-ever federal income tax. To drum up funds for the Civil War, Lincoln and Congress enacted a modest 3 percent tax on income over $800, which would be roughly $23,000 today. The law was almost instantly replaced with a new revenue act and would be repealed a decade later, but the relief obviously didn’t last: In 1913, the 16th Amendment established the federal income tax system we all know today.

4. Tax Day wasn't originally on April 15.

When the modern federal income tax was established, lawmakers set March 1 as the looming deadline.

Although they gave no reason for this particular date, it was presumably to give people a couple of months to gather paperwork and crunch numbers after the end of the year. By 1919, the government tacked a couple of more weeks on to help panicked filers, making March 15 the date. That date stood until 1955, after Congress acknowledged that doing your taxes was getting more complicated by the year.

To help accommodate all of those changes and give people adequate time to file, the date was bumped by another month—but the change wasn’t entirely altruistic. The IRS acknowledged that the extra month would help their employees as well, spreading the workload out across another 30 days.

5. We spend a lot of time doing our taxes.

The amount of time we spend doing our taxes every year suggests that the repeated date changes may have been justified. According to the IRS, the average taxpayer spends about 11 hours doing record-keeping, tax planning, form submission, and other super fun tax-related activities. Of course, if you break it down even further, the amount of time changes based on the type of form the filers use. Business filers spend about 20 hours, including 10 hours on record-keeping alone.

6. The average American gets about $3000 back from their tax refund each year.

This amount ebbs and flows a little bit every year based on the economy, fluctuating consumer incomes, and the IRS’s withholding tables, which suggest how much employers should deduct from employee paychecks to account for income tax. It’s worth pointing out that a huge tax refund isn’t necessarily a great goal: It basically means you gave the government an interest-free loan that year.

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