Those of us you who are gainfully employed have probably noticed the special significance today, April 15th, the ides of April, holds. Yes, today is the day for which years of standardized test-taking have prepared each and every one of us. It is a day that encapsulates the very core of the American political soul – the great social equalizer. Today is the day where some modest but precious modicum of our meager salaries are joined together in great union, the ultimate confluence of national cohesion.
Today, we celebrated our Taxation Day.
We’re going look at taxes as viewed from both sides of the Atlantic, through the lens of pop music. Read on – but if you qualify for the Earned Income Credit (EIC), please make sure to first fill out the worksheet on page 15.
Before we begin today’s discussion, I’d like to quote for you a bit of text I found while rummaging through the Massachusetts State Tax Schedule X instructions. It’s not directly on topic, per se, but I find it too amusing to leave aside. Achem:
Line 4. Fees and Other 5.3% Income. …Embezzled or other income from illegal activities is taxable and should be reported on Schedule X, line 4.
And that, my friends, is (A) either the greatest or the most poorly executed sting operation in government history, and (B) why they call us ‘Taxachussets.”
Okay, enough digression. It’s common knowledge that taxes are a political pox which have failed to provide any decent, positive development in the whole of American history. Still, until the inevitable Zombie Uprising that will one day consume all civil societies, we’re somehow obligated to pay them. For, as that old saw goes, “nothing in life is certain, except for (un)Death and Taxes. Unless you’re rich, in which case you can leave out the part about taxes.”
Tax Day evokes a lot of stock symbolism in our society. There’s the iconic image of poor shlubs waiting on long lines at the Paid Preparers’ or Postal offices, trying to give up their pittance before the midnight deadline. There’s the trope of the “IRS man” – an emotionless, bespectacled, be-business-suited robot who eats souls and belches up audits, the perennial punch line to countless sitcom jokes. And this all can be attributed to the camaraderie of group suffering: the sense that – for all-too brief a single day – allows even the lowliest of grad students to stand proudly alongside the most successful of businessmen, and kvetch about how they’re getting reamed on their returns.
And it’s that Culture of Complaint that brings us here today. If you’ve turned on a radio on any April 15th of the past, say, 30 years or so, you’ve likely heard the Station Manager’s attempt at group Tax Day commiseration. For, just slightly less inevitable than Death, UnDeath or Taxes, is the likelihood that on April 15, you’ll hear the Beatles’ classic “Tax Man.” (Unless you listen to NPR, because I’m pretty sure neither The Bad Plus nor BBC Orchestra have covers of it). For reference
Now, I want to be perfectly clear about this. I love the Beatles. I love this song; I think it’s classic Revolver-era Fab Four, a bridge between their pop roots and social satire with a touch of garage band gristle. But I’m going to argue that there’s a far superior song that should be buzzing through our heads on this and every Tax Day. Because after all, if any nation can produce a better Tax-themed protest song than jolly old England, it’s their hipper, quirkier offspring New Zealand America!
But what song–nay–Anthem of the People could possibly unseat this undeniable classic? If single, or married and filing separately, please read on.
Actually, everyone should read on, please.