Two Different Days, Same Terrible Tax News

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As most Americans know, the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline for filing 2023 federal income tax returns fell on April 15 this year. Millions of Americans probably waited until the last minute to file those returns, in part because nobody likes doing the paperwork (even if it’s done on a computer with expert assistance), and in part because they dreaded the possibility of having to cough up even more money instead of getting a refund.

As many Americans may not know, Tax Freedom Day fell on April 16. Tax Freedom Day is the day when, according to the Tax Foundation, the average American has earned enough to coughed up what the government is going to demand from him or her this year. After Tax Freedom Day, you’re theoretically earning money for yourself instead of for Uncle Sam.

As of 2020 (the last year I could find Tax Foundation information for), the average American forked over 13.6 cents of every dollar earned … and that’s just for federal income tax. It doesn’t include capital gains taxes, state income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, tariffs (you only see them as price increases, but you’re still paying them), gas taxes, “sin” taxes on booze and tobacco … the taxing just never stops.

The message of “tax day” and “Tax Freedom Day” is really the same: For nearly 1/3 of the year, the government considers itself entitled to everything YOU earn or produce, and demands that YOU do the work of documenting whether it took “enough.”

There’s a word for that kind of claim … but we supposedly ended slavery in 1865. I guess there are reasonable arguments for using weaker terms like “theft” or “extortion,” but there’s no honest way of making taxation sound moral.

The dishonest way is best exemplified by Oliver Wendell Holmes’s claim that “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society,” or Barney Frank’s definition of “government” as “simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.”

Paying taxes is not something we “choose to do together.” It’s something we do because  government threatens to steal our stuff and/or lock us up if we don’t.

As for “civilized society,” I refrain from beating my neighbor senseless or burning down his house because I’m not a terrible person, not because he filled out a 1040 form. I’m inclined to doubt that my fellow citizens will suddenly descend into savagery if   government stops stealing a third of their wealth every year.

And even if the “civilized society” dodge made sense at all, I’d have to conclude, like Jimmy McMillan, that “the rent is too damn high.” A government that has enough money to build 750 military bases in other countries (not counting the ones in the US), and enough money to track me down and put me in a cage if I smoke the wrong plant, neither of which has anything to do with “society” being “civilized,” has WAY too much money.

If politicians need money, they should hold bake sales instead of holding guns to our heads.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.