Today is tax deadline day. 

You picked up a couple of extra days this year because the traditional deadline of April 15 fell on a Saturday and Monday, April 17, was a holiday in some states.  If you are not finished by tonight, you can file an extension that gives you more time to file, not more time to pay.  You still have to send in what you believe you owe.

A lot of folks don’t owe the federal government anything, today or throughout the year. The estimates vary, but the Tax Policy Center calculates that 44 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax.  However, Roberton C. Williams with the TPC says “a majority of those non-payers work and thus pay the payroll taxes that help support Social Security and Medicare.

Additionally, even if you don’t pay federal income taxes, it’s hard to escape all tax liability. There are state and local taxes, sales and property taxes… any number of taxes and fees that are added in depending on where we live and what we do.

The Tax Foundation recently published Internal Revenue Service data for 2014 showing that the top one percent of earners are paid about 20 percent of all the income. However, they also pay 40 percent of all the federal individual income taxes. The top half of income earners pays all but about three percent of the federal income taxes.

The Tax Foundation reports that in 2016, Americans paid $5 trillion dollars in federal, state and local taxes.  That averages out to more than Americans will spend on housing, food and clothing.

Federal taxation of income in this country dates back to the Civil War, when Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861 to pay for the war effort. That was repealed ten years later.  In 1894, Congress passed a federal income tax, but the following year the U.S. Supreme Court (Pollock v. Farmers Loan and Trust Company) ruled that federal income taxes were direct taxes on individuals and therefore were unconstitutional.

However, that changed forever 18 years later with the Passage of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted the Congress the “power to lay and collect taxes on incomes” and we’ve been paying a portion of our income to the federal government ever since.

It’s natural to worry about being called on the carpet by the IRS, but it doesn’t happen very often.  Kiplinger reports that “the odds are reassuring. The vast majority (more than 99% in fact) of individual tax returns skate safely past the IRS audit machine” and three-quarters of all audits are handled my mail, not an in-person meeting with the IRS.

Tax time is popular for scam artists who contact taxpayers by email to request information for a refund. The IRS stresses over and over that it does not use email or social media to gather personal or financial information.  You should report any suspicious requests to the IRS.

The West Virginia State Tax Department has posted a message on its website that some refunds might be delayed due to anti-fraud measures. “As part of our safeguard measures, some taxpayers may be asked to verify that they filed a return or to verify their identities before a refund is issued,” according to Tax Commissioner Dale Steager.

And finally, lots of famous people have had tax issues, including Darryl Strawberry, Pete Rose, Martha Stewart, Wesley Snipes, Willie Nelson and Jesse Jackson, Jr. And although the authorities could never get Chicago gangster Al Capone on murder and racketeering charges, they did bust him for income tax evasion which sent him to prison for seven years.

 

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