Prime Minister Narendra Modi quoted Albert Einstein during his speech at the midnight launch of Goods and Services Tax. Mr. Modi said: “Einstein said if there is something in this world that is difficult to understand, it is income tax. I wonder what he would have said on seeing our multiple tax.”
So what is the story behind this quote?
According to Quote Investigator, a fact-checking blog, Einstein made this statement to his tax accountant Leo Mattersdorf. In a letter to Time magazine in 1963, eight years after Einstein’s death, Mattersdorf recalls the incident:
“One year while I was at his Princeton home preparing his return, Mrs. Einstein, who was then still living, asked me to stay for lunch. During the course of the meal, the professor turned to me and with his inimitable chuckle said: ‘The hardest thing in the world to understand is income taxes.’ I replied: ‘There is one thing more difficult, and that is your theory of relativity.’ ‘Oh, no,’ he replied, ‘that is easy.’ To which Mrs. Einstein commented, ‘Yes, for you.’”
Mattesdorf, according Quote Investigator, was Einstein’s trusted tax adviser and that vouches for the authenticity of the quote. Plus, it also carries a letter from Mattesdorf’s grandson on his grandfather’s close association with the eminent physicist.
Down the years different versions of Einstein’s statement appeared in the media before it made its way into the Central Hall of the Indian Parliament.