Everybody dreads it and everybody does it. What is it? Completing those daunting tax forms every year before April 15. As with most everything else, tax forms have become increasingly complicated over the years as the tax laws have changed. However, one thing is for sure, people have been filling out their tax forms every year for nearly 100 years.
While taxes have existed in one form or another for much longer, the first 1040 US tax form made its appearance in 1913 after Congress levied a 1% tax on people's net incomes above $3,000. It wasn't until World War II that Congress introduced payroll withholdings. In the 1930's the 1040 tax form was a two page document requesting pretty much the same information the IRS requires today; name, social security number, income from wages, salaries, tips, and other income.
Just as the way American's work has changed over the years, so have the tax laws and subsequently, the tax forms. There is a tax form for every applicable situation today. There are different schedules to each form, and varying degrees of difficulty depending on how an individual files their tax return. As self-employment has risen, the tax forms have adapted to recognize deductions, different sources of income, and certain exemptions.
Further, before the internet, US tax payers generally worked for companies in the US. Today, telecommuting is a common enough work practice that a US citizen may actually work for a company in another country, but you can bet Uncle Sam has a tax form for that too, and nothing gets by him. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service was reorganized under the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 to include four major operating divisions in line with the various types of tax payers.
Most recently, tax forms have taken on an entirely different meaning as the popularity of paperless returns grows. US citizens can now file their entire federal tax return online and can do the same for most state returns.