One Hundredth Anniversary of the 16th Amendment


Drape the windows and doors in black!  Yesterday was the one hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the 16th Amendment that allowed the implementation of the Federal Income Tax.  Last week I prepared my income tax returns.  I usually have fairly complicated returns, but I am always amazed that after thirty years as an attorney I still come across sections of the returns and instructions that are literally incomprehensible.  All those who have a similar reaction are in good company.  Leo Mattersdorf prepared the tax returns for Albert Einstein.  Einstein made this remark during a lunch one time to Mattersdorf:

One year while I was at his Princeton home preparing his return, Mrs. Einstein, who was then still living, asked me to stay for lunch. During the course of the meal, the professor turned to me and with his inimitable chuckle said: “The hardest thing in the world to understand is income taxes.” I replied: “There is one thing more difficult, and that is your theory of relativity.” “Oh, no,” he replied, ”that is easy.” To which Mrs. Einstein commented, “Yes, for you.”


Published in: on February 4, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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  1. And it all comes from constant attempts to be fair, add in legitimate expenses here, demands there – till it’s one big mess.

    • Quite right Fabio, although the attempts to favor particular interests also plays a role. Most people of course have fairly simple returns, although complex enough, and never encounter the Tax Code at its full confusing rigor. I recently finished a book about Churchill as a writer. The author dealt with Churchill’s woes in attempting to comply with the British tax system. For a number of years Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer and Inland Revenue came under his office. Churchill would frequently attempt to calculate his tax obligation and his calculations would invariably be wrong. From the author’s comments about the British tax system of Churchill’s time it seemed to me incredibly Byzantine with multi-year calculations of income often needed. I sometimes suspect that the main beneficiaries of modern tax systems have been accountants!

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