The U.S. Government Used Disney Cartoons to Convince Americans That Paying Taxes Is a Privilege


Before tax preparation software guided Americans through the process of filing tax returns before the Tax Day deadline — which falls on April 17 in 2018, though Tax Day is usually but not always April 15 — there were quacks like Donald Duck.

During World War II, the federal government needed an easily recognizable face to explain a process that was unrecognizable to many Americans at the time. As TIME previously reported, while the modern income tax was introduced in 1913, only the richest Americans paid it in the early years. That changed with the attack on Pearl Harbor, which prompted Congress to pass a new Revenue Act in 1942 to fund the U.S. war effort. The number of tax returns filed skyrocketed from 7.7 million in 1939 to 36.7 million in 1942, and about 50 million in 1945, according to the Tax Foundation, a tax-policy think tank.

So Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau tapped Walt Disney — who was already heavily involved in making films to boost the war effort — to crash-produce The New Spirit, a motivational film explaining income taxes to Americans in 1942.

In the clip, a voice coming from Donald Duck’s radio calls for “taxes to beat the Axis!” and reminds the cartoon icon that paying taxes should be seen as a privilege. Then, armed with a fountain pen, ink well and stamp, Donald Duck lists three dependents — his adopted nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie — and pays a $13 tax on his income of $2,501 made from his Hollywood acting.

TIME didn’t think the film’s explanation of how exactly to do taxes was “crystal clear,” but acknowledged that production was a rush job, completed in the record-short time frame of four weeks, rather …read more

Source:: Time – Business

      

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