Tax Day 2015: Why Is April 15 The Deadline To Pay Taxes?


Though they may seem like it, the dates that holidays fall on aren't usually random. They typically commemorate a significant event that happened on or around that day. Obviously, this makes sense.

However, it's hard to guess why April 15 was chosen as Tax Day, the deadline for filing and paying your taxes. The 16th Amendment, which instituted a national income tax, was passed by Congress on July 2, 1909 and ratified on Feb. 3, 1913, but neither of these days made the cut to be the Tax Day. What gives?

If the April 15 deadline to file and pay your taxes seems arbitrary, it kind of is. After Congress ratified the 16th Amendment on Feb. 3, 1913, it chose March 1, 1914 as the very first Tax Day. However, this deadline for filing taxes didn't last too long. In addition to raising more money for the war effort, codifying tax laws and imposing a progressive tax rate structure of up to 77 percent, the Revenue Act of 1918 moved up the deadline for filing taxes to March 15, although it's not clear why this change was made.

It wasn't until 1955 when the deadline for filing taxes was changed to April 15. The date change was "buried between tax-code revisions," according to a 2002 Fortune article, which gave this as an explanation for the second and final revision to the Tax Day date:

"According to an IRS spokesman, the move 'spread out the peak workload,' but there's another explanation. Turns out that as the income tax applied to more of the middle class, the government had to issue more refunds. 'Pushing the deadline back gives the government more time to hold on to the money,' says Ed McCaffery, a University of Southern California law professor and tax guru."

Though we have now been programmed to associate April 15 with Tax Day for 60 years, this isn't always the deadline to file and pay your taxes. If April 15 falls on a Saturday, Sunday or a civil holiday, Tax Day will be moved to the next business day. That means Tax Day can fall on any day from April 15 to April 18, depending on the year.

But no matter when Tax Day is, we all know that this is one deadline Americans will always be scrambling to make.

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