Between the middle of March and the middle April, I get a little strange feeling in my stomach. Not only does it have to do with turning our clocks ahead one hour, but that corporate and personal taxes are coming due very soon. My thoughts swing back and forth between how much of a tax I might have to pay and how much of a refund I might be blessed to receive.
I remember the good old days when tax season involved the ritual of hastily gathering records for our accountant, signing off on returns, and rushing to the post office, making sure that every return was sent “return receipt requested.” Fortunately, technology has streamlined the whole process making it so much less painful, especially with electronic filing.
For me, I sometimes wondered why April 15th was designated as the official tax filing day when other days, like April 30th or May 7th, could also have been chosen as well.
In doing a little research, it turns out that in fact April hasn’t always been the chosen tax month in America. Originally, Congress established March 1st as the deadline for filing individual returns, with the decision being driven by the timing of the 16th Amendment, which was adopted on Feb. 3rd, 1913.
According to the 1913 Revenue Act, anyone with an annual income exceeding the exemption ($3,000 for single filers and $4,000 for married couples) was required to file a return “on or before the first day of March, 1914.” Lawmakers offered no explanation for that date, but it seems likely that it was selected to give taxpayers adequate time to gather receipts and supporting documents to complete their returns following the end of the calendar year.
Subsequently, Congress soon did reconsider the timing. In the Revenue Act of 1918, lawmakers gave taxpayers an extra couple of weeks, settling on March 15th as the new deadline. The March 15th filing deadline remained on the books for a few decades, until 1955 when taxpayers faced a new deadline. The Internal Revenue Code of 1954 established April 15th as the tax day we all know (but don’t necessarily love) today.
So, there you have it in a nutshell. The next question is, will it change again? If our technology continues to make tax filing much more efficient, perhaps the government will want their money sooner rather later. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing if I’m also able to get an earlier refund as well.
Nancy Seiverd, President, CMI Credit Mediators, Inc.