Sunday marked the 100th birthday of the U.S. federal income tax with the passage of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution on Feb. 3, 1913.
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However, the first income tax dates back to ancient times, with the first known written record of taxes recorded in ancient Egypt, when grain, livestock or oils were used instead of money to pay what was owed to the government, according to the California Society of Enrolled Agents. Even then, the surviving hieroglyphic tablets record how people complained about high taxes, the CSEA noted. The Old Testament also records a poll tax used to pay for building King Solomon’s temple.
Even though the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913, it dates back even earlier, to 1861 during the Civil War, when Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861. The law included a 3 percent tax on personal incomes over $800 to help pay war expenses. Ten years later, in 1872, after the Civil War, this act was repealed.
The idea stuck around, however, and in 1894 Congress enacted a 4 percent tax on income over $4,000. The U.S. Supreme Court immediately struck this down in a 5-4 decision. In 1909, Congress tried again with the idea of an income tax. This time, however, it stuck, and on Feb. 3, 1913, the 16th Amendment was ratified stating, "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."
In 1913 the first Form 1040 was documented. Congress placed a 1 percent tax on net personal income over $3,000, with an additional tax on those who had net income in excess of $20,000 of between 1 and 6 percent, depending upon income. The first year no taxes were collected; the IRS only checked the forms for accuracy. During World War I the income tax rose to its highest point at 77 percent to help finance the war. Improvements to the system were made during World War II when Congress introduced payroll withholding and quarterly tax payments.
The Alternative Minimum Tax is another type of federal income tax that was enacted in 1969. This tax was established so that any taxpayer who wasn't paying their fair share due to deductions and credits would still have to pay an income tax.
The deadline for filing taxes wasn't always April 15. When the 16th Amendment was first enacted, the deadline was March 1. In 1918 that date was pushed back to March 15, then to April 15 in 1955.
Today, the IRS collects more than $1.2 billion in taxes and processes more than 133 million returns annually. And of course, people still complain about high taxes.