Government

When FDR Couldn’t Make Sense of His Tax Return

If you have ever wanted to pull your hair out in frustration over the complexity of trying to figure out your income taxes, you are not alone.

FDR’s letter to the IRS Commissioner. Click image to expand.

In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to figure out his taxes. Despite his best efforts, the Columbia Law School graduate could not figure out the complicated Income Tax Code. Instead, he sent a letter to Guy T. Halvering, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, saying, “I am wholly unable to figure out the amount of the tax…” He said that “this is a problem in higher mathematics” and asked the IRS to figure it out themselves.

He enclosed a check for $15,000, estimating it represented “a good deal more than half of what the eventual tax will prove to be.”

Two years earlier, FDR was reelected to a second term, saying, “Here is my principle: taxes should be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle.”

Perhaps he should have added a second American principle: tax returns shouldn’t be so difficult to complete.


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