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The meaning and origin of the expression: Nothing is certain but death and taxes

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Nothing is certain but death and taxes

Meaning

A rather fatalistic and sardonic proverb. It draws on the actual inevitability of death to highlight the difficulty in avoiding the burden of taxes.

Origin

Several famous authors have uttered lines to this effect. The first was Daniel Defoe, in The Political History of the Devil, 1726:

"Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed."

Benjamin Franklin (1706-90) used the form we are currently more familiar with, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789, which was re-printed in The Works of Benjamin Franklin, 1817:

"'In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

Another thought on the theme of death and taxes is Margaret Mitchell's line from her book Gone With the Wind, 1936:

"Death, taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them."

See also: the List of Proverbs.