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Why today isn't tax day

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The nation's procrastinators can breathe a sigh of relief: Tax Day has been pushed back to April 18 due to a legal technicality requiring the Internal Revenue Service to observe a Washington, D.C., holiday called Emancipation Day.

Emancipation Day celebrates the day enslaved people in Washington were freed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862. Lincoln freed D.C. residents nine months before issuing his Emancipation Proclamation, making them the first freed in the nation. The actual holiday is on April 16, but the city is observing it today.

Emancipation Day was made an official public holiday in the District in 2005, and the IRS must push Tax Day back in observation of any legal holidays, which means a legal holiday observed in D.C. That's good news for the 20 to 25 percent of taxpayers who typically file in the final two weeks of the tax season. About 7 percent of taxpayers typically seek a six-month extension to file their returns.

The District each year holds a number of events to celebrate Emancipation Day, including events to demand statehood and equal representation for District residents. Last year, the IRS collected $18,400,477 in federal taxes from the District, but the city's 600,000 residents have no voting representative in Congress.

The District's lack of representation has come into focus in recent weeks because of the congressional budget debate. As part of the budget agreement President Obama reached with Republican and Democratic leaders, a one-week spending bill signed into federal law included a provision barring the city from using its own local tax funds to provide abortion services.

District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray and several city council members were arrested during a sit-in protesting the restrictions in the budget deal. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting delegate in the House, angrily said in response to the budget restrictions, "It's time that the District of Columbia told the Congress to go straight to hell."

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