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.

Quirks and Madness at the IRS

As previously noted here, the IRS has a contingency plan for collecting taxes in the event of the end of the world as we know it. Curiously, this is not the strangest policy adopted by America’s tax collectors. The entity that was responsible for collecting nearly $3.5 trillion from more than 250 million tax returns…

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A Prophecy About Income Tax

When a federal income tax was being debated in 1910, Richard E. Byrd (1860-1925), Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, made the following prediction about what such a tax would mean. “A hand from Washington will be stretched out and placed upon every man’s business; the eye of the Federal inspector will be in…

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