Le collecteur d'impots
Le collecteur d'impôts. Photo credit: Yelkrokoyade / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Are you in pain from the IRS? Well, you’re in good company. Check out what these characters have to say about paying taxes -- Al Capone, Albert Einstein, Dave Barry, Mark Twain, Mae West, and many others.

Filling Out Tax Forms with Fiction


Income tax returns are the most imaginative fiction being written today. (Herman Wouk)

The income tax created more criminals than any other single act of government. (Barry Goldwater)

The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has. Even when you make a tax form out on the level, you don’t know when it’s through if you are a crook or a martyr. (Will Rogers)

The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that still carries any reward. (John Maynard Keynes)

There isn’t a rich man in your vast city who doesn’t perjure himself every year before the tax board. They are all caked with perjury, many layers thick. Iron-clad, so to speak. If there is one that isn’t, I desire to acquire him for my museum, and will pay Dinosaur rates. (Mark Twain)

They can’t collect legal taxes from illegal money. (Al Capone)

I am willing to barter my nudity for your love. That way the IRS can’t tax our transaction. (Jarod Kintz)

There are no withholding taxes on the wages of sin. (Mae West)

The IRS spends God knows how much of your tax money on these toll-free information hot lines staffed by IRS employees, whose idea of a dynamite tax tip is that you should print neatly. If you ask them a real tax question, such as how you can cheat, they’re useless. (Dave Barry)

Guide to the Perplexed


This is a question too difficult for a mathematician. It should be asked of a philosopher (when asked about completing his income tax form) (Albert Einstein)

The devil appears in many forms, but the most nefarious of all are tax forms. (Jarod Kintz)

Of course the truth is that the congresspersons are too busy raising campaign money to read the laws they pass. The laws are written by staff tax nerds who can put pretty much any wording they want in there. I bet that if you actually read the entire vastness of the U.S. Tax Code, you’d find at least one sex scene (“‘Yes, yes, YES!’ moaned Vanessa as Lance, his taut body moist with moisture, again and again depreciated her adjusted gross rate of annualized fiscal debenture”). (Dave Barry)

There is an ancient belief that the gods love the obscure and hate the obvious. Without benefit of divinity, modern men of similar persuasion draft provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. Section 341 is their triumph. (Martin D. Ginsburg)

You Will Pay


A tax collector has what it takes to take what you have. (Anonymous)

The trick is to stop thinking of it as ‘your’ money. (Anonymous IRS auditor)

What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin. (Mark Twain)

Another difference between death and taxes is that you don’t have to work like fury to pay for the dying you did last year. (Robert Quillen)

He’s spending a year dead for tax reasons. (Douglas Adams)

The art of taxation consists of plucking the goose so as to obtain the most feathers with the least hissing. (Jean-Baptiste Colbert)

Where is the politician who has not promised to fight to the death for lower taxes- and who has not proceeded to vote for the very spending projects that make tax cuts impossible? (Barry Goldwater)

Taxes Are Necessary


They’re so broke that they’ve actually cut essential services. In many places, they’ve cut policemen, because, who the f*ck needs them? Or firemen, son of a bitch, it’s much more fun watching something burn down. (Lewis Black)

Innovations in science and technology are the engines of the 21st-century economy; if you care about the wealth and health of your nation tomorrow, then you’d better rethink how you allocate taxes to fund science. The federal budget needs to recognize this. (Neil deGrasse Tyson)

I hate paying taxes. But I love the civilization they give me  (Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.)

If you have free trade and free circulation of capital and people but destroy the social state and all forms of progressive taxation, the temptations of defensive nationalism and identity politics will very likely grow stronger than ever in both Europe and the United States. Note, finally, that the less developed countries will be among the primary beneficiaries of a more just and transparent international tax system. (Thomas Piketty)

Just tell ’em you’re gonna soak the fat boys and forget the rest of the tax stuff…Willie, make ’em cry, make ’em laugh, make ’em mad, even mad at you. Stir them up and they’ll love it and come back for more, but, for heaven’s sakes, don’t try to improve their minds. (Robert Penn Warren, from “All the King’s Men”)

When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income. (Plato)

Honore Daumier, Gargantua

Drawing by Honore Daumier. Taxpayers carry money up the ramp to King Louis’s mouth. Documents granting privileges to the few are excreted into the commode below him. Photo credit: Honoré Daumier / Wikimedia



The intelligent man, when he pays taxes, certainly does not believe that he is making a prudent and productive investment of his money; on the contrary, he feels that he is being mulcted in an excessive amount for services that, in the main, are useless to him, and that, in substantial part, are downright inimical to him. (H.L. Mencken)

To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical. (Thomas Jefferson)

In 1790, the nation which had fought a revolution against taxation without representation discovered that some of its citizens weren’t much happier about taxation with representation. (Lyndon B. Johnson)

Let your voice be heard, whether or not it is to the taste of every jack-in-office who may be obstructing the traffic. By all means, render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s — but this does not necessarily include everything that he says is his. (Denis Johnston)

The collection of taxes which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable doubt contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized larceny. (Calvin Coolidge)

Taxing The Rich — Go Ahead and Try


We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes. (Leona Helmsley)

You can’t tax business. Business doesn’t pay taxes. It collects taxes. (Ronald Reagan)

Taxes are important. President Bush’s tax proposals leave no rich person behind. Voters approve of President Bush helping the kind of people they wish they were one of. (Andy Rooney)

President Bush said that if illegal immigrants want citizenship, they’d have to do three things: pay taxes, hold meaningful jobs, and learn English. Bush doesn’t meet those qualifications. (P. J. O’Rourke)

If Warren Buffett made his money from ordinary income rather than capital gains, his tax rate would be a lot higher than his secretary’s. In fact a very small percentage of people in this country pay a big chunk of the taxes. (Michael Bloomberg)

G.E. doesn’t pay any taxes, and we are asking college kids to take on even more debt to get an education and asking seniors to get by on less. These aren’t just economic questions. These are moral questions. (Elizabeth Warren)

Corporations barely pay taxes. The corporate tax rate is already very low, but corporations have worked out an array of complicated techniques so they often don’t have to pay taxes at all… The scale of sheer robbery by corporate power is enormous. (Noam Chomsky)

Nobody has been arrested on Wall Street for the crash of 2008. They’re not paying their fair share of the taxes. And now with the Citizens United case of the Supreme Court, they get to buy politicians up out in the open. (Michael Moore)

An unregulated derivatives market essentially gives Wall Street a way to place hidden taxes on everything in the world. (Matt Taibbi)

Once you realize that trickle-down economics does not work, you will see the excessive tax cuts for the rich as what they are — a simple upward redistribution of income, rather than a way to make all of us richer, as we were told. (Ha-Joon Chang)

Those who take their money abroad in an effort to avoid paying American taxes should lose their American citizenship. (Robert Reich)

US Government & Taxes


Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even. (Will Rogers)

An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation. (John Marshall)

It is a way to take people’s wealth from them without having to openly raise taxes. Inflation is the most universal tax of all. (Thomas Sowell)

In a very weak economy, when you say ‘cut government spending,’ what you mean is you’re laying off school teachers and you’re de-funding various programs that put money into the economy. This means you have more unemployed people that then draw unemployment benefits and don’t pay taxes. (Fareed Zakaria)

[Obama] was highly praised, including by his supporters, for his statesmanlike attitude during the lame-duck session, bipartisanship, and getting legislation through. What did he get through? The main achievement was a huge tax cut for the extremely wealthy.. .Meanwhile, at the same time, he initiated a tax increase on federal workers. Of course, no one called it a tax increase. That doesn’t sound good. They called it a pay freeze. But a pay freeze on public-sector workers is exactly the same thing as a tax increase. So we punish public-sector workers and reward the executives of Goldman Sachs, who just announced a $17.5 billion compensation package for themselves. (Noam Chomsky)

The taxpayer: that’s someone who works for the federal government, but doesn’t have to take a civil service examination. (Ronald Reagan)

Texas & Taxes


I just want Texas to be number one in something other than executions, toll roads and property taxes. (Kinky Friedman)

Texas has no income tax, which is a big draw for corporate executives who do business there. But it’s hardly tax-free. The property taxes are high for a Southern state. The sales taxes are high. One study found that the bottom 20 percent of the Texas population pays 12 percent of its income in state and local taxes. (Gail Collins)

These are tough times for state governments. Huge deficits loom almost everywhere, from California to New York, from New Jersey to Texas. Wait—Texas? Wasn’t Texas supposed to be thriving even as the rest of America suffered? Didn’t its governor declare during his re-election campaign, that ‘we have billions in surplus’? Yes, it was, and yes, he did. But reality has now intruded, in the form of a deficit expected to run as high as $25 billion over the next two years. And that reality has implications for the nation as a whole. For Texas is where the modern conservative theory of budgeting—the belief that you should never raise taxes under any circumstances, that you can always balance the budget by cutting wasteful spending—has been implemented most completely. If the theory can’t make it there, it can’t make it anywhere. (Paul Krugman)

Related frontpage panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Mark Twain (A.F. Bradley / Wikimedia)


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