Fun facts about taxes (No, really)

SamFrom the Saturday, April 16, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)


By Dave Wischnowsky

The folks at the Internal Revenue Service may not give us any breaks, but it was nice of them to at least give us an extension this year.

Even if it’s only because the IRS gave itself a holiday.

Most years, of course, Tax Day falls on April 15. But this year, it’s been pushed back until the 18th (that’s today, folks) because the IRS called off work on Friday to observe Emancipation Day.

Generally only recognized in Washington, D.C., Emancipation Day is a legal holiday in honor of Abe Lincoln signing the law that ended slavery.  It usually takes place on April 16, but since that date was a Saturday this year, the IRS instead celebrated it on Friday.

And that’s a double boon for taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts, as it pushes their deadline to April 19 since Monday is Patriots’ Day, a legal holiday observed in those states on the third Monday in April.

Got all that? Taxes sure can be confusing.

But today I thought I’d try to make them entertaining as well with some fun facts and figures about taxes that you may not have known.

A taxing sentence

Perhaps the only thing in Chicago higher than the skyscrapers are the taxes, which are so lofty that even Al Capone couldn’t get around them. The authorities never could bring Capone down on any of his alleged crimes as a gangster, but in 1931 the feds did finally nail him on tax evasion.

That conviction ultimately landed Capone in Alcatraz, where a woman once sent him a cryptic letter along with a check for sixteen octillion dollars ($16,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.00), signed “Holy Moses.” Prison officials feared the correspondence might be some type of code, and asked the IRS to investigate but it determined the letter and check were nothing more than “the products of a person lacking proper mental balance.”

But I wonder if they still tried to tax it.

Intoxication taxation

At least 23 states have a tax on illegal drugs (usually applied after a bust). But in Tennessee, when you buy an illicit drug, such as marijuana or even moonshine, the law states that you have 48 hours to report it to the Department of Revenue to pay your tax and get a stamp for the substance.

Reportedly, no identification is needed, although I’m guessing that you may be fingerprinted shortly afterward.

Sore losers

Professional athletes who earn an income competing in a particular city or state are subject to something called the “Jock Tax.” In 1991, California became the first state to levy this tax on athletes from Chicago – after the Bulls beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

The eyes have it

In the United Kingdom, everyone under the age of 75 pays a TV license fee. But if you’re legally blind, you only have to pay half of it.

Taste the difference

In Chicago, “fountain soda drinks” are taxed at a rate of 9 percent. But if your beverage comes in a bottle or a can, it’s only taxed at 3 percent.
I prefer Coke Zero.

Now, tell me again …

Back across the pond, the UK’s Tax Avoidance Schemes Regulations includes language that states, “it is illegal not to tell the taxman anything you don’t want him to know, though you don’t have to tell him anything you don’t mind him knowing.”

I might pay your taxes if you can tell me what that means.

That’s just great

During his reign in Russia, Peter the Great (1672-1725) taxed beards, hats, boots, beehives, basements, chimneys, food, clothing, birth, marriage, burial and even souls.

But let’s not give Chicago any ideas.

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