Help Donald Duck File His 1941 Federal Tax Return

Filing a federal tax return is an ingrained habit now, but most middle-class Americans didn’t have to before World War II. The Revenue Act of 1942 made 15 million more people eligible to pay taxes. How could the government explain this to the masses? Cartoons! The U.S. Treasury department commissioned Disney to make a short animated film that explained how to fill out a simple tax return, and why paying income taxes was so important. (Spoiler alert: Defeating the Axis powers.)

Being a single drake with three dependents apparently got you a pretty sweet tax rate in 1942: Donald pays $13 in taxes on his $2,501 gross income.

This being a wartime propaganda film, the emphasis is more on why taxes are important rather than how and when to pay them. The Disney animators make that “why” clear during the strangely beautiful last few minutes of the film: you need to pay taxes so we can blow up Nazis.

I prefer e-filing with TurboTax to using an anthropomorphic fountain pen and blotter, but maybe that’s just me.

Pay Your Income Tax [YouTube] (via Planet Money)
The New Spirit [IMDB]


Edit Your Comment

  1. 8bithero says:

    Lincoln invented the federal income tax to pay for the Civil War.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      And Canadian Tories instituted income tax to pay for World War I.

      Wars are fucking expensive. :C

      • dush says:

        Yeah, too bad Congress borrowed from China instead of taxing in order to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan.

        • pythonspam says:

          Wars are apparently only hated by 50% of America, while across-the-board taxes are hated by 100% of America.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      Income taxes were first proposed during the War of 1812. Click the “Planet Money” link in the article.

  2. LizziePoo says:

    See also: Donald Duck in Mathematics Land, which is freaking AWESOME. Euclid would have been very proud.

  3. theotherwhitemeet says:

    The Fair Tax or GTFO!

  4. dicobalt says:

    American factories!?!? Everyone knows factories only exist in Asia!

  5. Cat says:

    Let this be a lesson to us all on Big Government:

    What started as a tax on the super wealthy was extended to all citizens.

    Imagine what could happen if SCOTUS approves government – forced purchase of private products and services.

    “Could you define the market — everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli,” РJustice Scalia

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      A better life for pretty much everyone?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Scalia is being a douchenozzle to suggest mandating buying health insurance is like mandating buying broccoli or other food.

      • dush says:

        You are currently at risk of needing health care so govt requires you to purchase health care insurance.

        You are currently at risk of being unhealthy so govt requires you to purchase food it considers healthy.

        • Mark702 says:

          And to make it easier, we’ve outlawed anything we consider junk food. Goodbye pizza, burgers, soda, etc.

    • Kavatar says:

      I am imagining a world that looks pretty much the same as it does now because the slope is not nearly as slippery as you make it seem.

      • dush says:

        Your clothing could get ruined at any time. So the government forces you to buy an insurance policy against clothing accidents.
        Sound far fetched? Well if health care was as cheap as a new pair of pants we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The government will have the power to regulate any and all behavior it deems necessary with no limits.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I’m sure a President Santorum or Romney could think of all kinds of mandatory purchases we should be making.

  6. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    But I don’t have a blotter. Does that mean I don’t have to pay?

  7. PencilSharp says:

    Man. I wish I had an anthrpomorphic fountain pen and blotter to help me with these fershlugginer taxes. At least they’d have a bit of sympathy for me. Oh, and Donald’s effective tax rate was 0.52%. 0.52%?! Man, those were the good ol’ days…

    I actually have this toon on DVD. The Beloved Wife gave me a copy of “Walt Disney Treasures: On The Front Line” for my birthday several years ago, because she knew what a WWII nut I am. A freakin’ classic. Leonard Maltin actually relates the story behind this toon. The Treasury Department knew that the income tax was a hard sell, and approached Disney to create something that would explain to folks why it was so important to pay their taxes. Tax compliance supposedly soared after this toon was released. Unfortunately, Our Good Government failed to learn the lesson: Explain yourself and we’ll be more likely to go along with it.

    • Jane_Gage says:

      Phineas and Ferb proudly present: why tax evaders support the hordes from Istanbul.

    • Jeff asks: "WTF could you possibly have been thinking? says:

      I’m actually thinking the tax rate was .5% which would equal out to 12.50 tax rounded up (because it’s the IRS) to 13.00.

  8. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Unfortunately today the cartoon would be about 20 hours long and be so confusing we’d be drooling all over ourselves before we were even 1/4 way through!

  9. BurtReynolds says:

    Stupid question: Why do they care about my occupation? Are they going to follow up on that? I just always put a very nebulous “consultant”, because that is basically what I am.

    • Jane_Gage says:

      Believe it or not, some people are stupid enough to write “hooker” and “hit man” in this field.

  10. zandar says:

    Wow, Donald Duck was making $250k in today’s money. I wonder if audiences choked on their popcorn when they saw that.

  11. some.nerd says:

    Wow, Disney cartoons advocating guns? No wonder Baby Boomers are so violent!
    Also, LOL at Donald squeaking, “THAT AIN’T RIGHT!”
    Ain’t no propaganda like kids propaganda!

  12. Mrs. w/1 child says:

    Yes, health insurance and food and your daily ration of pharmaceuticals. If you can’t pay for health insurance (because you are too poor or it is a bad deal) we will just make you pay by increasing your taxes. If you don’t buy the food (from monsanto) that you have been mandated, we will send an army of social workers (paid with your taxes) to remove your children from your home and feed them the “proper” food you have been mandated to consume. Should you find yourself not purchasing and consuming your daily ration of pharmaceuticals (only the legal ones of course!) the penalty will be immediate death.

    Human beings are mere units of consumption and if they are not consuming or if they are consuming the incorrect things, then they are of no use to the collective.

    Can you even worry about a slippery slope if we are already half way down wearing teflon pants? (The purchase of teflon pants was mandated by the Dupont clothing affordability act of 2015, failure to wear them at lest three days a week triggers tax penalties).

  13. FLConsumer says:

    Did people actually believe this crap when this came out?

  14. frenchman says:

    …Disney doesn’t know where Georgia is