What Does Donald Rumsfeld Have in Common with Franklin Roosevelt?

April 16, 2014

Yesterday was Tax Day, and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shared a letter he sent to the IRS with his Twitter followers. Rumsfeld said he did his best to fill out his taxes but says he's not sure he got it right, due to the complexity of the tax code:

The tax code is so complex and the forms are so complicated, that I know I cannot have any confidence that I know what is being requested and therefore I cannot and do not know, and I suspect a great many Americans cannot know, whether or not their tax returns are accurate.

Rumsfeld says that he hopes that “the U.S. government will simplify the U.S. tax code so that those citizens who sincerely want to pay what they should, are able to do it right, and know that they have done it right.” Amen. Apparently Rumsfeld sends a similar letter each year.

It reminded me of a similar letter President Franklin Roosevelt sent then-Internal Revenue Commissioner Guy Helvering on March 15, 1938 (taxes were due March 15 each year until 1955, when it was moved to April 15). FDR gave up trying to calculate his income tax himself and instead sent the figures to Helvering asking him to calculate it for him and let him know how much was due:

As this is a problem in higher mathematics, may I ask that the Bureau let me know the amount of the balance due?

Helvering’s reply, if he gave one, has not been kept. I imagine an IRS response today to such a request would not be very obliging.

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