Death and taxes (idiom)

Death and taxes is a common reference to the famous quotation:[1]

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

— Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy, 1789

However, Franklin's letter is not the origin of the phrase, which appeared earlier in Daniel Defoe's The Political History of the Devil.[2]

Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believ’d.

And in The Cobbler of Preston by Christopher Bullock (1716)[3]

’Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes


  1. ^ Sparks, Jared (1856). The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. X (1789-1790). Boston: Macmillan. p. 410.
  2. ^ DeFoe, Daniel (1726). The Political History of the Devil, As Well Ancient as Modern: In Two Parts. London: Black Boy in Pater-noster Row. p. 269.
  3. ^ Christopher Bullock. The Cobler of Preston, a farce. As it is acted at the Theatre-Royal in Lincoln's-Inn-Field, Fifth Edition. Bladon, London, 1767. p. 21.