Love may have inspired more songs than any other subject, but the subject of taxes inspires tax songs that are just as heartfelt. Singers and songwriters seem to be just like the rest of us – you work hard, you do the best you can, and pow! The better you do, the deeper the IRS digs into your pocket.
Here are our favorite tax songs. Or at least our favorite ones with video or audio tracks.
(If you have other favorites, let us know. We may add them to the list.)
#8: Sunny Afternoon – The Kinks
Seems to be a common theme among ‘60s rock groups (see song #1). No wonder. Britain’s tax code was even more confiscatory then than it is now.
#7: After Taxes – Johnny Cash
America’s favorite troubadour enjoyed a good, stiff drink a lot more than he enjoyed a good, stiff tax.
#6: Sales Tax – Mississippi Sheiks (audio only)
This is an audio track from the 1930s in which a great old blues band talks and sings about their reaction to the sales tax.
#5: I Paid My Income Tax Today – Danny Kaye
Here’s a segment of Danny Kaye singing an Irving Berlin song from World War II. Unfortunately, Dr. Demento cuts the song off before it gets to the third refrain. We only hear the part about it being patriotic to pay your taxes (thank you, Harry Reid), but not the part that tells the government to be careful about how they spend it. Here are the missing lyrics:
[3rd REFRAIN with coda:]
I paid my income tax today
I never cared what Congress spent
But now I’ll watch over ev’ry cent
Examine ev’ry bill they pay
They’ll have to let me have my say
I wrote the Treasury to go slow
Careful, Mister Henry Junior, that’s my dough
I paid my income tax
Now you’ve got all the facts
I know you’ll pay your taxes too
#4: Life After Death and Taxes – Relient K
Relient K is a Christian group. The song is about faith, but the great thing about art is that its interpretation is open to the viewer. In our interpretation, this song is about Tim Geithner, Tom Daschle, Hilda Solis and Kathleen Sebelius and the fact that they’ve been forgiven for the tax sins.
Please don’t strike us with lightning, God.
#3: Me and the IRS – Johnny Paycheck
As Johnny Paycheck says at the beginning of this video, “Let’s stick it to the IRS.” Forget what we said above. There’s only one way to interpret this song. Tax protest.
#2: Taxman, Mr. Thief – CheapTrick
Interesting thing about this song is that it’s actually a tribute to the Beatles song “Taxman” (see #1). The Beatles mentioned Prime Minister Edward Heath in their song “Taxman” and Cheap Trick refers to him in their song, despite the fact that all the members of the group were American and not impacted by Britain’s tax system.
#1: Taxman – Beatles
“‘Taxman’ was (written) when I first realized that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes,” George Harrison said. “It was and still is typical.”
“George wrote that and I played guitar on it,” Paul McCartney added. “He wrote it in anger at finding out what the taxman did. He had never known before then what he’ll do with your money.”