The Growth Experiment: How the New Tax Policy Is Transforming the U.S. Economy

By Lawrence Lindsey | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

The Psychic Taxpayer

"In this world nothing can be said to be truly certain except death and taxes."

—BENJAMIN FRANKLIN in a letter to Jean Baptiste Leroy,
13 November 1789

April 15. No other date on the calendar, save possibly December 25, is as indelibly etched in the national psyche. Yet the proverbial visitor from Mars might wonder what all the hoopla is about. Although income tax returns are due on April 15, most of the taxes people owe were paid during the preceding year and determined by decisions even farther in the past. And though many of us resolve on April 15 to do things differently next year, these resolutions are often forgotten in the wave of relief that comes when the tax form is finally dropped in the mailbox.

The trauma of April 15 symbolizes the cumulative effect of the tax system on our lives. Like the Judgment Day, April 15 settles all accounts. Our sins and our good works are placed in balance and our fiscal fate decided. If we have been good, we sing a chorus of hosannahs and await our reward, the refund check. If we have been bad, we usually wait until the last minute, search deep in our files for that extra deduction, that forgotten act upon which the IRS may smile, hoping that it will mitigate our guilt and our balance due.

April 15 is such a red-letter day because the income tax is designed to change our behavior as well as to collect tax revenue. As such, it is an adjunct to the judicial system. Threats of

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