Income taxes are due April 15. Except when they’re not. This year’s tax date, April 18, is the result of a convergence of a weekend and a little known legal holiday in Washington D.C.

This year April 15 falls on Saturday. In most years when Tax Day falls on a weekend it moves to Monday. This year, however, Monday, April 17, is also temporary home to an important public holiday in the nation’s capital called Emancipation Day. 

Emancipation Day

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act on April 16, 1862, freeing nearly 3,000 slaves in the District of Columbia. Although formal slavery did not officially end in the U.S. until after the end of the Civil War in 1865, Lincoln’s action in 1862 is celebrated annually April 16 in Washington D.C. Except when it’s not.

This year, Emancipation Day falls on Sunday. When Emancipation Day falls on a weekend, the public holiday is moved to the closest workday. This year that day is Monday, April 17. Moving Emancipation Day to April 17 displaces Tax Day to April 18.

Last year Emancipation Day in Washington fell on Saturday. It was moved back to the nearest workday, Friday April 15. This caused Tax Day to move from Friday to Monday April 18. 

Why April 15?

Tax Day hasn’t always been April 15. In 1913 the 16th Amendment to the Constitution created the modern tax system. At that time Tax Day was set as March 1. In 1918, 5 years later, the date was changed to March 15.

In 1955 Tax Day became April 15, supposedly to “spread the workload" for IRS employees. Many tax experts believe the real reason was to allow the government to keep your money longer before issuing a refund. 

A Whole Lot of Shifting Going On

When April 15 falls on a Saturday, Sunday or a civil holiday, the deadline for filing taxes is moved forward to the next workday. Patriots’ Day, celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine on the third Monday in April, sometimes conflicts with Tax Day, in which case residents of those states can file a day later.

Since 1955 there have been 62 Tax Days (including this year). Of those, 16 have been on days other than April 15. This mean roughly 1 out of every 4 Tax Days does not fall on April 15.


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