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Taxation Nation

Director – Jessica Yu
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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
Cast
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

Animation Director: Brock Gallagher
Storyboards: Sah Tantivaranyoo; John Martinez
Design: Sah Tantivaranyoo; Angelo Vilar
Backgrounds: Angelo Vilar; Maddie Sandell
Layout Team:
Lead: Sah Tantivaranyoo
Chris Darnbrough
Brock Gallagher
Cameron Hicks
John Martinez
Mac Whiting
Angelo Vilar
Animation Team:
Chris Darnbrough
John Dusenberry
Brock Gallagher; Cameron Hicks; Anna Hollingsworth; Mac Whiting
Post: Ryan Samsam; Tony Christopherson
Produced And Recorded At Many Rooms Music, Agoura CA
Lead Vocals By The Poorhouse Rock Singers: Esme Salzman; Joan Beal; Henry Beal; Ava Salzman
Consultants: John Steele Gordon; Dean Baker
Production consultant: Lisa Remington
Production assistant: Dan Duran
© 23/7, Inc

Jessica Yu

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.

Director's Note

“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!”


Quiz

What is the most important revenue source for the federal government?

  • Excise taxes
  • Speeding tickets and parking tickets.
  • The corporate income tax
  • The personal income tax
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?

  • Since George Washington’s administration
  • Since World War II
  • Since 1913
  • Since the Civil War
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?

  • Simplicity
  • Fairness
  • Revenue
  • All of these
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 “habits.”

Did you know?

  • The U.S. tax code is so complicated that Americans spend the equivalent of 6.1 billion hours per year complying with it.

  • George Washington was the only sitting Commander-in-Chief to ever go into battle while in office – over a tax issue.

  • Tax on income in the U.S. was actually proposed and rejected two decades before it became law in 1913.

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