It is fair to say that in April, few people are paraphrased more often than one of America’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
It was a statement made by Franklin in a 1789 letter to French publicist and historian Jean-Baptiste Leroy on the establishment of a new Constitution. While the Constitution had “an appearance that promises permanency,” Franklin cautioned that few things are certain in life.
But when Franklin wrote of life’s two certainties, he was paraphrasing author Daniel Defoe’s 1726 book, The Political History of the Devil, in which Defoe wrote, “Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed.”
This year, Tax Day was moved back to April 18 rather than April 15 to make way for Washington, D.C.’s legal holiday, Emancipation Day, on April 16. Since the holiday falls on a weekend, public workers get the closest weekday off, which happens to be the typical Tax Day of April 15. How’s that for certainty?
In honor of this annual day of drudgery, we compiled a few of our favorite songs for you to listen to once your return has been signed, sealed and delivered.
“After Taxes” by Johnny Cash
“They say everybody’s got different problems. Well, maybe so, but I’ve got a song about one problem that every one of us have and that’s taxes. This song’s about what it’s like after taxes.” Country crooner Johnny Cash kept it simple and sweet at his 1978 Spring Special before singing about the “painful sense of loss” that most of us experience when opening our very first paycheck and seeing the difference between “total wages earned” and “net amount.” “Cause by the time old Uncle Sam gets through with you,” Johnny sings, “You can buy her a pair of hose, A little powder for her nose. And take her down to Sloppy Joe’s for beer, And stew them are the facts after tax.”
“Me and the IRS” by Johnny Paycheck
Grand Ole Opry member and multi-instrumentalist Donald Eugene Lytle (AKA Johnny Paycheck) held nothing back when he sang this very pointed and rebellious country song lamenting “the way the big man rakes it in, the little man coughs it up,” and declaring he will no longer take part. “From now on, I’m keepin’ my pay, Gonna deduct nothin’. Take the 1040 forms and shove ‘em, Put ‘em where the sun don’t shine. You can write me off Cuz I ain’t givin’ a dime to the IRS.” We shouldn’t be too surprised by Johnny’s brash truth – he was, after all, best known for recording David Allan Coe’s “Take This Job and Shove It” and was considered a driving force in the 1970s country music “Outlaw Movement.”
“Money” by Pink Floyd
Few money-related songs are more recognizable than Pink Floyd’s, “Money,” with its ringing cash register and jangling coins looping behind David Gilmour’s vocals. Paying tribute to the great things money can buy, it might be best to see if you’re getting a refund before pressing “play” on this 1973 Roger Waters hit.
“Taxman” by The Beatles
Finally, no tax-related playlist would be complete without “Taxman,” the Revolver opener penned by George Harrison. Written from the perspective of the “taxman,” the declarative song makes it clear that no matter what you do – drive, sit or take a walk – the taxman will be there to make sure you’re paying your share. Harrison was inspired to write the mocking tune when the British Labour government of Harold Wilson, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, introduced a 95 percent supertax on Britain’s wealthiest, which included The Beatles. “‘Taxman’ was when I first realized that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes. It was and still is typical,” Harrison wrote in his 1980 autobiography I, Me, Mine.