Happy birthday income tax, you're 100 years old (ouch!)Submitted by barracuda_trader on Fri, 10/04/2013 - 14:38
It's doubtful most people will notice, let alone celebrate, Friday's 100th anniversary of the U.S. income tax code. But, yes taxpayers, Oct. 4, 2013, is the centennial.
So, happy birthday income tax?
"Obviously, it depends on your perspective," said Ajay Mehrotra, a history professor at Indiana University.
"But there's one thing we can take from the period of time when the tax law passed," he said. "And that is lawmakers got together and realized some permanent form of taxation was needed instead of having a political stalemate that got nowhere."
One expert sees the 100 years as a system run amok.
"In 1913, the tax code consisted of 400 pages," said Timothy Nash, a professor of free market economics at Northwood University.
"By 2012, the tax code was 73,608 pages," he said. "We have gone from a simple tax system to a complex, unfriendly system."
But having some sort of taxation goes back to the country's beginning. From 1791 to 1802, the government was supported by tax revenue from the sale of such items as liquor, tobacco, sugar, property sold at auction and even through the sale of slaves.
The high cost of the War of 1812 saw the first sales tax on gold, silverware, jewelry and watches. But by 1817, Congress eliminated all taxes and relied on tariffs from imported goods for revenues.
It was in 1862, to fund the Civil War, that Congress enacted the first income tax. Anyone making between $300 to $10,000 a year paid a rate of 3 percent. That tax ended soon after the war.
Congress also established the Internal Revenue Service at the same time, which had much the same power and authority then as it does now.
Jumping to 1894, Congress passed the first peacetime income tax law, but a year later the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. The court said that taxes on rents and real estate income had to be divided among the states according to population, which the law did not allow.