- Tax Day this year is Monday, April 15, 2019. It’s the deadline to file your tax return.
- Americans have been procrastinating filing their returns for over a century.
- Vintage photos show crowds lining up on or right before Tax Day to fill out and mail their tax returns before the deadline.
Tax Day this year is April 15, 2019. According to the IRS,20-25% Americans wait until the last two weeks before the Tax Day deadline to prepare their tax returns.
Procrastination isn’t a recent phenomenon when it comes to filing tax returns. Since the early 1900s, people have been lining up in a last-minute rush to get their paperwork in on time.
Here are 15 vintage photos that show how timeless procrastination truly is.
The 16th Amendment to the US Constitution implementing a federal income tax was ratified in 1913.
Before 1913, Congress had temporarily collected income taxes to pay for the Civil War. A federal income tax was ruled unconstitutional in 1894 because the amounts weren’t administered according to the population of each state.
Congress originally chose March 1 as Tax Day in 1913. In 1918 they moved it to March 15.
The Internal Revenue Bureau’s 1917 ad campaign featured “Four Minute Men” reminding people to do their taxes on time, but people still waited until the day before to submit their paperwork.
The Bureau also became responsible for enforcing Prohibition in 1919. The Department of Justice took over in 1930.
The Individual Income Tax Act established standard deductions in 1944.
Standard deductions, as opposed to itemized deductions, intend to simplify the filing process. The standard deduction is the share of your income that’s not taxed, so it can be used to lower the overall tax bill.
There are certain advantages to itemizing depending on one’s finances, but Business Insider previously reported that about 70% of Americans take the standard deduction.
Before photocopying and electric typewriters, everything had to be done by hand.
The filing deadline was pushed back one month to April 15 in 1954 to give people more time, but many still procrastinated.
The IRS established walk-in Tax Assistance Centres to help people file their taxes in the 1950s.
In the 1950s, most people submitted their tax returns through the US Postal Service.
The returns had to be postmarked by April 15, so postal workers stood outside to accept people’s tax returns for delivery on the night of the deadline.
The last-minute mail rush continued into the 1960s.
The IRS also opened its first toll-free phone line in 1965.
Thousands still waited until the night of the deadline to file in the 1970s.
Postal workers stayed out until midnight collecting forms.
Some latecomers even dropped off their paperwork via motorcycle.
A motorcyclist in Denver, Colorado, delivered his tax returns to the post office clutched in his teeth in 1978.
The IRS also began expanding the accessibility of their resources in the 1970s.
They began to provide tax information in Spanish in 1972 and a teletypewriter service for people who are deaf or hard of hearing in 1976.
The influx of returns on the last day of the deadline inundated IRS workers.
An IRS employee told The Boston Globe in 1982 that the flood of last-minute flood of returns “gets worse every year.”
As midnight approached, post offices collected piles and piles of forms.
Electronic filing started to become available when President Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act in 1986.
In 1996, Great American Back Rub offered free massages outside of post offices in New York City to help relieve some of the stress of tax season.
Filing taxes did get a little bit easier in the ’90s with the launch of The Digital Daily, now known as IRS.gov, in 1996.
Even in the new internet age, postal workers continued stationing themselves outside post offices on Tax Day to collect forms and keep traffic moving in the 1990s.
Rain or shine, postal workers stood outside until midnight collecting returns.
Lines of cars on Tax Day stretched through to the new millennium in 2001.
An estimated 24 million Americans filed their tax returns on the final day in 2001, according to Newsmakers. It goes to show that no matter how advanced technology gets or how many new resources the IRS provides, taxpayers’ strong procrastination habits aren’t going anywhere.
- Read more:
- Here’s how big tax refunds could be this year for people earning between $US21,000 and $US266,000
- We compared Credit Karma Tax and TurboTax for filing your taxes – here’s the verdict
- 5 unexpected tax breaks you can claim on your tax return
- 5 changes to expect when you file your tax return this year
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.