A Century of Income Taxes Clarifies Today's Debate

It’s hard for any American nowadays to imagine living in a country with no income tax. But up until 100 years ago – exactly 100 years ago this weekend, in fact – it wasn’t constitutional for the Federal Government to tax individual incomes. Indirect taxes, such as tariffs on imports and sales taxes on specific kinds of goods, were allowed by the Constitution as long as they were uniform throughout the country. But direct taxes had to be apportioned among the various states in proportion to population, which is impractical with income taxes. Once Delaware ratified the 16th Amendment on Feb. 3, 1913, however, those restrictions were eliminated and the income tax we know today came into existence.

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