It is April as I write. On the first day of this month is April Fools’ Day. We play pranks, have them played on us. All is, or should be, quite harmless, although it seems to be in decline, less people remembering this celebration of the new month.
There is, however, something we are not allowed to forget in many countries. It always arrives as a surprise, perhaps even a shock. Why it should happen in April is a mystery that is somehow entrenched in time that is unfathomable. There are theories that attach it to April Fools’ Day. One is that when European countries switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in the Middle Ages, it meant that the celebration of New Year’s Day on 25 March with a holiday that in some places ended on 1 April was mocked by those who celebrated New Year’s Eve on 1 January. Although we cannot be sure, that is said to be the invention of April Fools’ Day.
Then we have Easter, a movable feast that occurs on the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. So, it will always be after that full moon, which given the lunar cycle is about four weeks means it might be immediately after 20 March or, like 2022, 17 April. It celebrates the crucifixion of a man a couple of thousand years ago. No heresy intended, but feels like fiscal crucifixion to many people every year.
That brings us to the matter in hand, or usually taken out of hand. A short time after the celebration of foolishness, in numerous European states, an official letter arrives. It is the demand, or at least a reminder, that our taxes are due. It is an incurable shock. From the day we first encounter this notification until our last breath it seems more than likely we will somehow or other receive that demand. Try as we may, many of us have tried; nothing works short of being a castaway on a proverbial desert island. Even then there is no certainty the tax office will not find us. Why it is April when it is for a year and years begin on 1 January is something equally confusing. Probably we can blame Julian and Gregory swapping New Years from one date to another. The archaic institution, the tax office, is so busy chasing taxes that they have had no time since the Middle Ages to catch up with the calendar. Other than that, why April?
Try as we may, there is no valid excuse for not paying. One might, for instance, respond by saying we are destitute, homeless, living in a sewer in sub zero temperatures and can only afford to wear clothes on Thursdays. The tax office will respond with the implication of the word ‘but’, which they never actually use, but a more persistent demand that there are extenuating circumstances (but) not in this case. They will demand the value of our only shirt, if we have one, or something else that they creatively appear to contrive. Failing all else, they would take our Easter chocolate eggs and bunnies. At the most extreme we possibly, probably in fact, have the origins of demanding a pound of flesh. If we have nothing else then perhaps that is what we can expect.
It is an extraordinary time of year anyway. During that old celebration of the end of the year we have what is called daylight saving time that began at 02:00 on Sunday March 27 this year so that sunrise and sunset will be one hour later. Since that began it has totally confused people who frequently adjust their clocks wrongly or don’t know it is happening then arrive at work at the wrong time on Monday morning. What seems almost bizarre is that in the northern hemisphere, an event we call the vernal equinox, also called the spring equinox for some kind of obvious reason that nobody can really figure out because we know it is the start of spring, is the reason for changing those clocks. It is considered the start of the New Year in Hindu and Persian (we would now say Iranian, of course) calendar to confuse us further, although most Hindu and Iranians living outside their country use 1 January. So why, this year, was it 27 March instead of 20 March? Perhaps it is to confuse us so that we can be fooled on 1 April then totally befuddled, thus do as we are told in our state of shock, when that demand from the tax office arrives.
So, it’s the time of year when we must pay taxes; probably fill out a long form, which for people who are self-employed wading through receipts and other papers, organising deductions by topic and then sending it in, probably to be told we are wrong and what we owe is X. There is a phrase ‘the taxman cometh’ one hears often this time of year that is not ancient as some people imagine, but is allegedly based on the play title ‘The Iceman Cometh’ by Eugene O’Neill. It seems appropriate, the taxman (or woman) is normally as cold as ice when demanding our pound of flesh.
There is nothing we can do about it. We will be hunted down, we shall pay or be locked up for not paying, but the punishment does not excuse us from the debt incurred, that follows us to the grave, perhaps beyond. There is, therefore, in one of the most famous quotes from Benjamin Franklin that is part of a longer line but so truthfully frequently cited as: “… in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”
Featured image by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.