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Rachel Cooper

National Archives to Display Income Tax Amendment and the First 1040

By April 7, 2013

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Want to learn about the history of the American tax system? Throughout April, the National Archives will mark the centennial of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave Congress the power to impose an income tax on Americans. The Archives is offering a special document display of:
  • The Joint Congressional resolution proposing the 16th Amendment to the states, July 2, 1909

  • The first Internal Revenue Bureau Form 1040, as provided by Public Law 63-16, approved October 3, 1913
The Civil War prompted the first American income tax, a flat 3-percent on all annual incomes over $800, in 1861. Congress enacted a 2-percent tax on annual income over $4,000 in 1894, but it was quickly struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. By the early 20th century, members of both the Democratic and Republican parties advocated a constitutional amendment allowing a Federal income tax. On July 12, 1909, Congress passed a joint congressional resolution proposing such an amendment. The resolution was then sent to the states for consideration. By February 3, 1913, three-quarters of the states-- the number required by the Constitution for ratification--had approved it. Certified by Secretary of State Philander C. Knox on February 25, 1913, it then became the 16th Amendment to the Constitution.

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