Why is our tax system so complicated? Teachers have long relied on educational cartoons with catchy songs to simplify everything from grammar to government. Can a cartoon conquer a challenge like today’s tax system, with its ever-changing, 75,000 pages of laws? With retro flair, "Taxation Nation" looks into how our tax system does – and doesn’t – work.
Directed by Jessica Yu
Producer: Jessica Yu
Lyrics by Timothy Steele and Jessica Yu
Music by Jeff Beal
Tax Guy: Phil LaMarr
Taxpayer Gal: Maria Bamford
Animation Produced by Six Point Harness
Executive in Charge of Production: Brendan Burch; Dave Vamos
Head of Production: Andy Fiedler
Creative Director: Greg Franklin
Producer: Nicholas Butera
JESSICA YU is a director of both documentaries and scripted films, in a variety of genres. She won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short for "Breathing Lessons", a film about Mark O’Brien, a poet confined to an iron lung. Her recent films include "Misconception", a documentary about world population which premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, and "Last Call at The Oasis", an award-winning chronicle of the water crisis, both for Participant Media, and "The Guide", a short documentary about Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park. Her feature comedy debut "Ping Pong Playa" premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was released by IFC Films. Her documentaries include "Protagonist", "In The Realms of The Unreal", and HBO’s "The Living Museum" and the shorts "Meet Mr Toilet" and "The Kinda Sutra", all of which premiered at Sundance. Yu also directs television shows; her credits include Scandal, The West Wing, Parenthood, Grey’s Anatomy, and ER. She also directs spots with Nonfiction Unlimited.
“To be honest, the thought of making a short film explaining the tax system made my temples throb. Cover the origins and complexities of our National Headache in under five minutes? Oy. Then I remembered how I learned about such grown-up concepts when I was a kid: Schoolhouse Rock made everything from grammar to government into a catchy, easy-to-digest tune. But could that kind of jaunty simplification work on something as convoluted as today’s U.S. tax system? Well, if not, that would be a statement in itself.
I was lucky to gather a Dream Team on this film, and we had a blast creating an animated musical that had our characters navigating the ever-changing ‘tax highway.’ Our goal was to make the refrain as stick-in-your-head as any Schoolhouse tune. You have been warned!”
What is the most important revenue source for the federal government?
69%The personal income tax
5%Speeding tickets and parking tickets.
18%The corporate income tax
69% of respondents chose the correct answer: The personal income
Individual income taxes account for 42% of all federal revenues closely followed by payroll
taxes and corporate income taxes. The individual income tax has been the largest single source of federal
revenue since 1950, averaging 8% of GDP.
How long has the United States had a permanent income tax?
10%Since George Washington’s administration
14%Since World War II
12%Since the Civil War
64% of respondents chose the correct answer: Since
In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed into law a measure to collect income tax to pay for the
Civil War, but the tax was repealed ten years later. The idea of collecting income tax came up again several
times, but it was not until 1913 that Congress passed the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and the IRS was
born. The first basic income tax was 1% of net income of more than $3,000.
What is an important characteristic of a good tax system?
80%All of these
80% of respondents chose the correct answer: All of
Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, viewed taxation as something necessary to the
running of government and should be the responsibility of citizens and businesses based on their “abilities” and
Is this a fair tax system? Companies pay up to 10% tax while many workers pay over 25%. Workers subsidise the rich.