Well, it didn't take the IRS long to spoil 2009.
I opened my mailbox on Jan. 2 expecting to find a last-minute Christmas card, a mail-delayed catalog or a huge check from an unknown and recently deceased relative only to find my federal tax form had already arrived. Those guys really know how to bring in the new year. it's enough to make you give up on your New Year's resolution already which, in my case, was not to drink 10 beers this year when the tax forms arrived.
I guess the tax forms have to arrive sometime, just like death, but is the beginning of a new year the appropriate time? i mean here we are, just coming off the holiday high that leaves us believing that maybe there is hope for the world, maybe, if we can endure Uncle Ernie at Christmas dinner, then surely the israelis and Palestinians can get along, maybe this year will be the year when we stick to those resolutions and emerge at the end fit, healthy, sober, smoke-free and an all-around better person. Then the tax forms arrive and we're jolted back to reality.
I'm convinced the arrival of those forms is the reason most of us break our resolutions. It's the governmentis fault, not our lack of will power.
So why do the forms get here right after the holidays? That's a good question that none of the sources I checked with seemed to know the answer to. The iRS seems to believe that sending them out three and a half months before taxes are actually due on April 15 encourages people to file early and reduces the work load on its employees. Not me. I'm hanging on to my hard-earned cash until 11:59 p.m. on tax day.
Originally, taxes were due on June 30 under the Revenue Act of 1861. But because only the wealthy paid taxes back then and they tended to vacation in the summer, the deadline was moved up to the spring. When the 16th Amendment was passed in 1913 making taxing income legal, the deadline was March 1. In 1918 it was moved to March 15 and, in 1955, to the current deadline of April 15, although no one seems to know why.
As recently as 2003 there was an effort in Congress to move the tax deadline to the first Monday in November, the day before election day, under the premise that taxpayers angry at having to pay would be more stimulated to show up at the polls and make changes. Unfortunately, that was one stimulus package the folks in Congress didn't want since it could result in them being voted out so it never went anywhere.
But if the tax deadline is an arbitrary date, why not move it so that we arenit faced with all those forms at the beginning of the year along with all the holiday bills? Why not schedule them to arrive on the Fourth of July when we're all feeling patriotic?
In the meantime, I already know what my New Year's resolution for 2010 will be. Iim not opening the mailbox next year until March.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org