Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

Why is April 15 Tax Day?

April 8, 2009

dollarWe’re one week away from April 15, and if you’re wishing you had a little more time to finish your taxes then be glad that you don’t live 50 years ago.

In 1913 Congress passed the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which said that Congress can collect income tax.  They’d already done this before, but were making it all official (although apparently when it was introduced it was expected to fail).  At that point, they declared March 1 to be Tax Day.  March 1, as you may recall, was New Year’s Day for the Ancient Romans, but that’s probably just a coincidence since quite a few days were New Year’s Day at one time and place or another.

After 1918 the Tax Day was changed to March 15, which probably resulted in a host of “Beware the Ides of March” jokes.

Finally, in 1954, the date was changed to April 15 [although that didn’t take effect until the following year].  According to this site (where I got most of the info so far), this was because the IRS was getting swamped with so many returns at the last minute, and they hoped that having more time would spread that out a bit.

In searching around, I also discovered the original 1040 form from 1913, which doesn’t look as simple as I would have hoped.    You can see all of them through the years here, although just looking at all those tax forms doesn’t exactly give one a feeling of peace and relaxation.

Tax Math, Inca Style

April 6, 2008

Still working on those 1040 tax forms? One thing to think about as you read and read and reread the instructions is how the whole process would be different if there was no written language. It’s probably up for debate whether that would make it easier or harder.

The Incas, whose empire in South America began around 1200 and was strongest from about 1450 to 1532, didn’t have a written language that we are aware of, but they did a great job of keeping track of things. To do so, they used quipu (or khipu), which were knotted strings. Different knots and string colors indicated different amounts and types of items.

This picture below shows a quipu representing crop yield for several plants over three different years. Click below to see photos of quipu and learn about the connection with taxes!

Tax Math, Aztec Style

April 5, 2008

Having tax woes? The Aztecs, who lived in Central Mexico and whose empire was particularly strong between the 12th and 15th centuries, shared your pain. They might not have had to fill out 1040 forms, but they did have to pay taxes, and the calculations were not simple, according to a paper published April 4 in Science Magazine which deciphered the mathematics of two codices from around 1540-1544. (“Aztec Arithmetic Revisited: Land-Area Algorithms and Acolhua Congruence Arithmetic” by Barbara J. Williams and María del Carmen Jorge y Jorge; see the abstract here.) Click to read more about Aztec math and taxes!