Tax Analysts Blog

Is It Time Yet?

Posted on Apr 2, 2009

If you're worried about missing the April 15 deadline for filing your tax return, consider this: if it were 1954, you'd already be two weeks late. From 1919 to 1954, returns (like this one) were due on March 15. From 1913 to 1918, they were due earlier still, on March 1. Congress extended the deadline in 1955 to ease the last minute crush at local IRS offices. But even today, about 20 percent of returns are filed during the last week.

IRS Reminder PosterThe Treasury Department -- institutional parent of the IRS -- has never been shy about telling people to pay up. Consider this poster from the 1940s (right), part of a huge campaign to improve tax compliance during World War II. Not exactly subtle.

Over the years, Americans seem to have gotten the message. For most of us, April 15 has become a touchstone of modern citizenship (albeit an unpleasant one). It's a day of shared misery.

Still, it's worth recalling that April 15 has sometimes been known for non-tax events. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865. General Electric was incorporated on April 15, 1892. McDonald's served up its first batch of hamburgers on April 15, 1955 (perhaps to feed a bunch of hungry, last-minute tax filers struggling with the new deadline).

But most striking of all, the Titanic sank on April 15, 1913. Some things really are worse than filing your tax return.

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