Tears in your beers -- Country tunes for Tax Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 15, 2014 09:35am | Post a Comment
Krazy Kat and crew

Income taxes -- they're no fun -- especially when you're poor. 

There are few escapes from them, too. Most of the few countries which don't have them are located in Arabia, where massive corporate taxes on even more massive oil revenue make them unnecessary. In the US, on the other hand, corporate income taxes only account for about 9% of federal government receipts (we may have the highest nominal corporate tax rate in the world but the effective corporate tax rate is much lower) whereas individual income taxes account for about 41%. That might, at first glance, seem high but our individual income taxes are actually low compared to those of most countries. In the developed world, only Chileans, Mexicans, and Turks contribute less to their countries' GDPs... or something (my mind glazed over for a second). 

Enough about percentages and Arabia -- what if you want to stay in America but still avoid taxes. You could always go Unabomber or embark upon a black market career... as Big Daddy Kane told us, "pushers don't pay taxes." But Jesus wouldn't approve of either of those options. The Messiah made his opinions on taxes known in the Gospel of Matthew, and even got a little testy:

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. 

I suppose, therefore, one could try to embrace the notion that paying taxes is a patriotic duty. After all, the great Irving Berlin and his family fled Belarus and anti-Jewish pogroms behind to live in freedom-loving America. He actually celebrated paying taxes in song -- “I Paid My Income Tax Today” -- written in 1942. OK, so his primary motivation for writing it was a Treasury Department commission and not the spark of inspiration ignited by a W-2. Even worse, the IRS owns the copyright and not even Danny Kaye or the fact that those taxes were helping fund a "just war" (World War II) still wasn't enough to overcome the intrinsic unpleasantness of a tax celebration necessary to make a hit.


Although Irving Berlin (by the estimation of many the greatest American songwriter of the 20th century) couldn't make a hit out of tax tunes, it didn't stop a bison-ranching sheriff's deputy, Henson Cargill, from having a crack at it in the 1967 song, "Skip a Rope." It didn't exactly celebrate taxes -- taxes aren't even the focus of the song -- but it did include a line attackign tax evasion. Americans might hate paying taxes but we hate tax evaders more -- consider the collective joy from seeing Alphonse "Scarface Al" Capone, Heidi "Hollywood Madam" Fleiss, Judy "Baby" Garland, Leona "The Queen of Mean" Helmsley, Martha "It's a Good Thing" Stewart, Nicolas Cage, O.J. "The Juice" Simpson, Pete "Charlie Hustle" Rose, Tim Geithner, and Wesley Snipes brought to justice. 

Personally, rich people complaining about money woes (whether merely whining or in an attempt to identify with and sell music to "the common man") are only slightly less annoying than popstars and reality stars who grab the spotlight to moan about being famous (I'm talking about folks like The Radioheads and The Kardashians). 

Thankfully, most Country musicians, when they'v sung about taxes, have either protested them, or at least referenced the burden they represent. Consider the fact that about a huge chunk of our current government's budget goes to defense whereas a positively measly amounts go to things like housing, science, transportation, and education.

Anyway,15 April is Tax Day so if you've procrastinated, you better git ta goin'! May these troubadours soothe your pain and many happy returns!

Ralph Willis featuring Brownie McGee - "Income Tax Blues" (1951)

Hank Penny - "Taxes, Taxes" (1952)

Conway Twitty - Every Day Family Man (1971)

Ry Cooder - "Taxes On the Farmer Feeds Us All" (1971)

The Statler Brothers - Daddy (1972)

Johnny Paycheck - "Me and the IRS" (1978)

Johnny Cash - "After Taxes" (1978) 

Reba McEntire - Small Two-Bedroom Starter (1981)

George Jones - "Ol' George Stopped Drinkin' Today" (1983) 

Willie Nelson - "Tired" (1992) 

and last and least -- Billy Ray Cyrus - "We the People" (2000)

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Country Music (16), Taxes (1), Tax Day (1), Holidays (95), Income Tax (1)