For the past few weeks I’ve been sorting pieces of paper from the basket where they’ve been hiding for the past year, and writing out categorized lists of income and expenses. While this can be an eye-opening (and sometimes horrifying) exercise, it’s the first baby steps I take when getting ready to file my taxes.

Me, at tax time. (Quickmeme.com photo)

Tax time isn’t a celebration. For most people, including me, the idea of preparing taxes only prompts fear, aggravation, and helplessness. Add frustration to the mix once you start dealing with Form A, part 3, subsection d. But no worries. If you have any questions, all you need to do is refer to a booklet containing over one hundred pages of instruction.

If we have to pay, can’t it at least be a tad bit easier?

Ah, taxes…

Even though everyone understands why we must pay them–to fund the structures and services that keep our country rolling–I don’t think anyone is particularly thrilled about the idea of doing it. And that isn’t a recent phenomenon.

Income taxes were “officially” launched in 1862, when President Lincoln needed revenue to help fund hefty Civil War expenses. ┬áHe signed a bill into law that would levy a three percent tax on incomes between $600 and $10,000, and a five percent tax on incomes of more than $10,000.

Lincoln discussing matters with General McClellan and other officers. Probably about how expensive it is to run a war. (Library of Congress photo)

It likely won’t surprise anyone to know the people weren’t happy about this development. Congress finally succumbed to pressure, and cut the tax rate in 1867. However, this did not sufficiently cheer taxpayers, and the income tax was repealed in 1872.

Sadly, the people’s joy would be short-lived. In 1894, income taxes were revived, but not without a resounding fight. So, in 1895, the Supreme Court stepped in to rule the income tax unconstitutional as it was a direct tax, not apportioned among the states on the basis of population.

In 1909, President Taft tried to set up income taxes again, and recommended Congress give the government power to tax income without apportioning by population. Much debate and bickering ensued, but the 16th amendment was finally ratified, giving Congress the power to lay and collect tax on incomes from whatever source, without regard to apportionment.

And we’ve been paying income taxes ever since.

You’ll be happy to know, after days of angst and struggle, I did my civic duty by completing a ridiculously complicated form, and filing my taxes. What a wonderful feeling to press the “submit” button. I actually became giddy once the whole transaction had been completed.

The best thing about filing income taxes is getting a refund.

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