Thoughts for Taxing Times

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George Washington never told a lie, but then he never had to fill in a 1040 form, either.
Deseret News and Telegram,
Salt Lake City, Utah

The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than fishing has.
Will Rogers

Over and over again courts have said there is nothing sinister in so arranging one's affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant.
Judge Learned Hand,
Commissioner v. Newman

Taxes should be proportioned to what may be annually spared by the individual.
Thomas Jefferson,
Remark to James Madison,
December 1784

Some are suggesting that a simplified tax form should read:
1. How much did you make last year?
2. How much did you spend?
3. What have you left?
4. Mail it in!
U.S. News and World Report

Still another complicating factor in our tax laws arise from the addition year after year of new provisions. Moreover, in adding these provisions we seldom have the time to go back through the existing compilation of the tax laws to see how many of them are no longer necessary.
Wilbur Mills, Chairman
House Ways and Means Committee,
December 1965

A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
An old saying of law school professors

In my own case the words of such an act as the Income Tax, for example, merely dance before my eyes in a meaningless procession; cross-reference to cross-reference, exception upon exception—couched in abstract terms that offer no handle to seize hold of—leave in my mind only a confused sense of some vitally important, but successfully concealed, purport, which it is my duty to extract, but which is within my power, if at all, only after the most inordinate expenditure of time. I know that these monsters are the result of fabulous industry and ingenuity, plugging up this hole and casting out that net, against all possible evasion; yet at times I cannot help recalling the saying of William James about certain passages of Hegel; that they were no doubt written with a passion of rationality; but that one cannot help wondering whether to the reader they have any significance save that the words are strung together with syntactical correctness.
Judge Learned Hand

The legal right of a taxpayer to decrease the amount of what otherwise would be his taxes, or altogether avoid them, by means which the law permits, cannot be doubted.
Justice Sutherland,
Gregory v. Helvering

Where there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income. Plato, The Republic

There is no child so bad that he can't be used as an income tax deduction.
A saying of tax practitioners

The hardest thing in the world to understand is the Income Tax.
Albert Einstein

Copyright © 1980 by H.D. Watkins

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