It being April 15th, and SC always striving to commemorate interesting days of the calendar, herewith a brief riff on the history of the word "tax", or rather on its effects.
Merriam-Webster gives the etymology of tax as:
Etymology: Middle English, to estimate, assess, tax, from Old French taxer, from Medieval Latin taxare, from Latin, to feel, estimate, censure, frequentative of tangere to touch
The earliest recorded tax policies are probably those of the Old Testament, which required the payment of a tenth of one's produce (Leviticus 27:30) and livestock (Leviticus 27:32); even before these were laid down as laws, 10% was apparently perceived as a reasonable tax (Genesis 28:22). This is not to be confused with latter-day attempts to justify taxes by appeal to said document.
The ancient world had other tax policies as well. The ancient Spartans paid a poll tax, which was a fixed amount per head, while the Athenians introduced a property tax in 378 B.C. Augustus Caesar, meanwhile, figured that if one tax system was good, two were better, and adding a sales tax was best. India had an early system of "progressive" tax brackets, with farmers paying 1/10th, 1/8th, or 1/6th of their produce depending on their level of success. The ancient world had its share of tax dissenters, too; in 594, Solon abolished the existing tax system in Athens, for which he was rewarded with exile later on.
War and taxes have a long and unpleasant shared history. Athens had a wartime poll tax called the eisphora, which was also bracketed (unlike the poll tax). Conquerors expected to be able to levy taxes on their new territories, to pay for the privilege of having been hacked up, looted and pillaged. In the 9th century A.D., Danish Vikings imposed a poll tax on the luckless denizens of Ireland, known as the Danegeld. We owe the expression "to pay through the nose" to the Danes' habit of slitting open the noses of those Irishmen who were unwilling or unable to pay.
Poll taxes have generally fallen into disrepute, in part because of their use as a tool of discrimination (ended in the U.S. with the ratification of the 24th Amendment in 1964). For a funny pseudo-history of the 20th-century English poll tax, have a look here.
Of more immediate relevance to most of us these days on April 15th is an organization whose predecessor was established by President Lincoln in 1862, but which only really came into its own in 1913, with the passage of the 16th Amendment. Needless to say, it didn't take long for the states to follow suit, and so now most of us have form 540s to go with the 1040.
As for SC, his tax returns were in over three weeks ahead of the due date this year, marking the only time in 2004 that he will have completed anything significantly in advance of a deadline.