For years, ordinary taxpayers as well as seasoned tax professionals (and even, we can reliably say, certain financial journalists) who've been seeking answers to tax queries on the IRS's website have stumbled across a surprising – and for most, we think – endearing feature: a collection of some 15 tax quotations.
It dates back more than five years at least, and to those U.S. taxpayers who've seen it, suggested a human side to a government agency that many otherwise tend to regard with annoyance at the very least, depending on their experiences over the years.
The IRS didn't immediately respond to questions about the list, when it was removed from its site, or why. But the URL that used to bring it up – www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-quotes – now produces a "Page Not Found" result (see above).
To be sure, the IRS was hardly the first tax-focused entity to put together a collection of tax quotations. Many tax professionals cherish their personal favorites, dropping them into sentences and written copy when given half a chance. Toronto-based citizenship lawyer and American expat rights campaigner John Richardson, for example, has a collection of his own, which we published here in 2020.
Inc., the U.S. business magazine, published a list of 130 quotations back in 2015, beneath a headline that was composed by tweaking one of Taxland's most ubiquitous tax quotations (by Benjamin Franklin): "In this world, nothing is certain except death, taxes and 'inspirational quote' posts on Inc.com."
Another tax quotations fan is Kat Jennings, editor and publisher of Tax Connections, a California-based tax news and analysis site for tax industry professionals, whose collection, at last count, numbered 250 quotations.
For those who missed the IRS's collection...
Below, we've got all 15 of the tax quotations, in order, that the IRS used to have on its website.
The collection was prefaced by a statement that made it clear (lest anyone be confused) that the quotes reflected "the opinions of their authors" (rather than, say, the IRS), and that their "inclusion here is not an official IRS endorsement of the sentiments expressed".
That said, some readers might have been forgiven if they found it difficult not to see the IRS as taking a decidedly realistic view of its tax-paying congregation, with the inclusion in its compendium of such quotes as Arthur C. Clarke’s observation that "the best measure of a man’s honesty isn’t his income tax return. It’s the zero adjust on his bathroom scale."
The IRS’s ('unofficial') Tax Quotation Collection
o "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.''
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1902 - 1932
o The power of taxing people and their property is essential to the very existence of government.''
~ James Madison, fourth U.S. president
o "To tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to men."
~ Edmund Burke, 18th Century Irish political philosopher and British statesman
o “I am proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is – I could be just as proud for half the money.”
~ Arthur Godfrey, entertainer
o “People who complain about taxes can be divided into two classes: men and women.”
o "No government can exist without taxation. This money must necessarily be levied on the people; and the grand art consists of levying so as not to oppress."
~ Frederick the Great, 18th century Prussian king
o "Like mothers, taxes are often misunderstood, but seldom forgotten.''
~ Lord Bramwell, 19th Century English jurist
o "The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.''
~ Arthur C. Clarke, author
o "Next to being shot at and missed, nothing is really quite as satisfying as an income tax refund.”
~ F. J. Raymond, humorist
o A tax loophole is "something that benefits the other guy. If it benefits you, it is tax reform.''
~ Russell B. Long, U.S. Senator
o "Few of us ever test our powers of deduction, except when filling out an income tax form.''
~ Laurence J. Peter, author
o “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”
~ Albert Einstein, physicist
o “Taxation with representation ain’t so hot either.”
~ Gerald Barzan, humorist
o “Where there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income.”
o “Income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf.”
~ Will Rogers, humorist
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