Monday, February 11, 2013

Taxes and more taxes

Well, it's the time of year when I spend oodles of time sorting little receipt scraps, puzzling over credit card statements, and trying to interpret the chicken scratches from last year's check books. Yes, it's tax time.

But it's not even April! you may protest.

Ah, the tax man calleth and we must goeth, so that we can be prepared to submit final numbers for FAFSA, oh joy.

The tax man cometh.
Income tax of one type or another has been around in the U.S. a looong time, on and off since the Civil War, and becoming a permanent fixture in 1913. I bumped into an article from the Leadville Daily and Evening Chronicle, dated July 17, 1890, with the ominous headline "Has He Called Yet?" The "He" is not the Grim Reaper (although there are overtones of such), but Leadville's brand-new poll tax collector. On June 3, 1890, the Leadville city councile passed an ordinance for levyig and collecting a poll tax. The tax "is assessed against every able bodied citizen of Leadville between the ages of twenty-one and sixty years, and amounts to $2." Leadville planned to use the money collected to improve and repair the streets, bridges, and alleys of the city.

That $2 in 1890 translates to about $50 in today's cold hard cash... not an inconsiderable amount, really.
In 1890, one of these and...
... one of these covered your poll tax.
So, the ordinance has a clause that if a person didn't want to pay up, he (I'm assuming the "citizens" referred only to the male populace of Leadville) had the option of working one day under the supervision of the city. No pay, no work, off to jail you go.

As of the date of the article, no one had been hauled off to the hoosegow, but there were a number of folks looking for loopholes (some things never change!), claiming exemptions on the ground that "they are old firemen, old soldiers or have served in the state militia."

At least we don't have the tax man knocking on our door demanding that we either pay up or pick up a shovel . Although, right now, given the option, I wouldn't mind pulling weeds, picking up trash, or doing some other civic duty if it meant escaping the paper chaos that has invaded my table and taken over my life...

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