Thursday, April 15, 2021

Houdini and the tax man

Today is (normally) tax day in the U.S., although this year it is extended to May 17 due to Covid. But I still thought this was a good day to share this curiosity from the October 25, 1924 Indianapolis Times. You'll notice Houdini is listed among the taxpayers below.

Not sure if Houdini's tax burden of $410 should be considered too low or about right for the times. But it's pretty clear Governor Al Smith and oil magnate Harry F. Sinclair are the true tax escape artists. The more things change...



  1. $410 in April of 1923 is the 2021 equivalent of $6,426.01, which still seems low, but I have no idea what his gross income was that year.

  2. Assuming he and Bess filed jointly as a married couple, and this tax table is correct:

    their taxable income was about $10,714

    1. Inflating that to 2021 gives us in the neighborhood of $168,000, which seems pretty low, especially given the equivalent of $391k on just the ten-week tour John mentions below.

  3. Interesting. Be fun to see his tax returns. But we know he must have made bank in 1923. That year was all about refilling his coffers as he pretty much toured vaudeville all year. We know he made $25,000 for just a ten week tour in 1922. And we know he tended to make around $2K on a weekly contract. And whatever salary he took from the FDC, although he also had massive losses there.

  4. Very cool. The tax does seem low. (I guess he was able to take a depreciation on the Torture Cell.)