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]