If you're just starting to go through your drawers to find your w-2s, 1099s and your forgotten password to your tax software, you can breathe a little easier this tax season. We can thank Honest Abe for giving us three extra days for "some of us" to get our acts together and honestly file our taxes on time this year. For the past 60 years, income tax returns have been due on April 15th. If that date fell on a weekend, the due date was the following Monday. This year (and next year and the following year) is the exception to the rule. Here's why.
In 2005 Washington, D.C. started honoring April 16th as Emancipation Day. Alone in the U.S. and its territories, DC celebrates the day in 1862 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, freeing the over 3,000 slaves in the District of Columbia. This would occur a full nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in the states that seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy. Emancipation Day was actually a recognized holiday from 1866 to 1901. Legislation signed on January 4, 2005 revived the Emancipation Day commemoration and it again became an official public holiday in Washington, D.C.
This year, Emancipation Day falls on a Saturday so the federal government decided to observe the District's holiday on the day before, the 15th. The federal government treats all official DC holidays as though they are also national holidays. So if you happen to be in DC, you can partake in the parade, fireworks and other festivities along Pennsylvania Avenue. Schools and government agencies, like the Internal Revenue Service, will be closed on April 15th, thus giving us all the ability to procrastinate until midnight on Monday the 18th. But take it from a tax professional: just because you can doesn't mean you should.
Now, If you want a little more history here's some fun knowledge: the IRS we know today is an outgrowth of President Lincoln's war to end slavery.
In 1862 he created the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the predecessor of today's Internal Revenue Service, to collect the first-ever U.S. income taxes that were passed by Congress to pay for the North's Civil War expenses. In 1913 the modern income tax was created when the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, and the initial due date was set to March 1, then to March 15 in 1918 and finally set on April 15 in 1955.
Why so late in the year? It gives the IRS a stable workload and allows taxes to be filed over the first couple months of the new year.
And if the IRS procrastinates on your tax refund? Fear not. The IRS is required to issue your refund within 45 days, and if it doesn't it pays you interest on your Money!
"Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.'' -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., U.S. Supreme Court Justice