Skip to comments.Taxing the Rich – 1765 to 2011, Part I
Posted on 09/16/2011 4:39:14 PM PDT by NaturalBornConservative
War and Taxes: 1765 to 1872
By: Larry Walker, Jr.
There is a limit to the taxing power of a State beyond which increased rates produce decreased revenue. If that be exceeded intangible securities and other personal property become driven out of its jurisdiction, industry cannot meet its less burdened competitors, and no capital will be found for enlarging old or starting new enterprises. Such a condition means first stagnation, then decay and dissolution. There is before us a danger that our resources may be taxed out of existence and our prosperity destroyed. ~Calvin Coolidge
|From Taxing the Rich|
The American Revolution was the product of war and taxes. There are few topics more cantankerous, for war has oft been used as an excuse to enslave a populace through taxation, and unfair overburdensome taxes have oft led to war. With the United States governments passage of the quixotic Affordable Care Act of 2010, which would regulate the lives of every man, woman and child from cradle to grave, and add a new set of taxes and mandates; the Tea Party revolution was reborn. Elected officials who take the movement flippantly are likely to find themselves buried in the trash heap of human history. Telling todays Tea Party to go to Hell is like telling America itself to go to Hell. Its a line one dare not cross. Thus congresswoman Maxine Waters, and those caterwauling similar political vitriol, may soon find themselves on the lam, or under the bus.
In 1765, Great Britain imposed a series of taxes upon the American Colonies, in order to pay for its lengthy French and Indian War (1754-1763). After the war, the British forced upon the Colonies, the Stamp Act of 1765, requiring the purchase of tax stamps for any printed documents including newspapers, legal documents, marriage licenses and more. This was followed by the Townshend Acts of 1767 which were passed: to raise revenue in order to pay the salaries of governors and judges so that they would be independent of colonial rule; to create a more effective means of enforcing compliance with trade regulations; to punish the province of New York for failing to comply with the 1765 Quartering Act; and to establish as precedent the British Parliaments right to tax.
Just like the Tea Party Movement of today, our founding fathers resented insidious taxes and regulations imposed upon them without their consent. Then as now, it is simply a matter of taxation without representation, an act which early Americans likened to tyranny. By 1773, when the East India Company was granted a virtual monopoly on the importation of tea, it was the last straw. In protest, a group of Boston citizens disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded a ship and dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston harbor. The Revolutionary War ensued, and the United States of America was born. Today, the Affordable Care Act is only a symptom of the disease. The disease being: overregulation, overburdensome covert and overt taxes, unsustainable federal debt, and a small minority of ideologues with socialist tendencies forcing their will upon the people.
Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery. ~Calvin Coolidge
Far-left demagogues often speak in platitudes, but the utopian paradise they seek, through raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires, is a myth. Behind closed doors, they secretly plot to raise taxes on every soul, from the bottom up. They seem to have no recollection of American history, a history in which Americans have only been subject to an income tax for 110 out of 236 years. The United States has only endured an income tax between the years of 1862 to 1872, and 1913 through 2011. The income tax was initially spawned to fund the Civil War, errantly raised during the Great Depression, hiked to the max during both World Wars, and is today being exploited by left-wing politicians whose only goal is to reduce American exceptionalism to a failed, redistributive, collectivist state.
Ever since the income tax was introduced in the United States, the balance has tilted between having no income tax at all, to a top marginal rate of 94.0% (1944); and from a top tax bracket of $15,200 in 1867, to $79,412,681 in 1936 (in todays dollars). In this series, we will examine the tax rate schedules in use from 1861 through 2011, and in so doing, will uncover the rates levied on incomes of $250,000, $1,000,000, and $10,000,000, throughout U.S. history. We will discover how the purpose of the income tax has shifted from a means to fund war, to an apparatus of wealth redistribution.
We will determine the average historical tax rates, and weighted average tax rates imposed upon upper incomes. We shall learn that throughout American history, an income of $250,000 has been taxed at an average historical rate of 23.6%. We shall hopefully gain some sense of what the term fair tax really means, as for some no income tax at all is considered fair, while for others a tax of 94.0% upon the rich is deemed just. Yet we believe as Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush believed, that there is a limit to the taxing power of a State beyond which increased rates produce decreased revenue, and that if taxes are too high Americas resources may be taxed out of existence and our nations prosperity destroyed.
The Revenue Act of 1861
The first income tax levied by the United States Government was imposed to fund the Civil War (1861). Prior to this, the government was funded strictly through customs duties, tariffs levied on imported goods. During the War of 1812, the government experimented briefly with excise taxes on certain goods, commodities, housing, slaves and land, but a tax on income was out of the question. What is significant is that prior to 1861, or for the first 86 years of American history, whether a citizen had an annual income of $800, $250,000, $1,000,000 or $10,000,000, every dime was considered to be private property of the individual, and not subject to any federal claim.
The Revenue Act of 1861 included the first U.S. Federal income tax statute. It introduced the federal income tax as a flat rate tax. The income tax was to be "levied, collected, and paid, upon the annual income of every person residing in the United States, whether such income is derived from any kind of property, or from any profession, trade, employment, or vocation carried on in the United States or elsewhere, or from any other source whatever. Rates under the Act were 3.0% on income above $800 ($20,400 in 2011 inflation adjusted dollars) and 5.0% on income of individuals living outside the country.
|From Taxing the Rich|
Under the 1861 Act, a married couple earning the equivalent of $250,000 (in 2011 dollars) would have paid a tax of just 2.8%; those earning $1,000,000 would have paid 2.9%; and those earning $10,000,000 would have incurred a tax rate of just 3.0% (see table above).
It is important to note that: (1) Americas first income tax was a flat rate tax, (2) it was meant to be temporary, with the proceeds used solely to fund the Civil War; (3) for the preceding 86 year period, personal income of American citizens was not subject to any federal tax; and (4) that no revenue was ever raised under the 1861 Act, because it was revised (on June 30, 1862) before any tax was due.
The Revenue Act of 1862
In 1862, the initial Revenue Act was revised to reflect the first progressive rate tax in U.S. history. The office of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue was established. The Act specified that the Federal income tax was a temporary measure that would terminate in the year 1866. Annual income of U.S. residents, to the extent it exceeded $600 ($13,400 in 2011 dollars), was taxed at a rate of 3.0%; those earning over $10,000 per year ($224,000 in 2011 dollars) were taxed at a 5.0% rate. With respect to the income tax liability generated by the salaries of "officers, or payments to persons in the civil, military, naval, or other employment or service of the United States, including senators and representatives and delegates in Congress," the law also imposed a duty on paymasters to deduct and withhold the income tax, and to send the withheld tax to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
Under the Revenue Act of 1862, a married couple earning the equivalent of $250,000 (in 2011 dollars) would have paid a tax of just 3.4%; those earning $1,000,000 would have paid 4.6%; and those earning $10,000,000 would have incurred a tax rate of just 5.0% (see table below).
|From Taxing the Rich|
The Revenue Act of 1864
Since in 1862 the Union War Debt stood at $505 million, and since the income tax only raised $2.7 million in 1862 and $20.2 million in 1863, rates were raised in 1864. The 3.0% tax on incomes above $600 ($8,590 in 2011 dollars due to devaluation) was increased to 5.0%, a new 7.5% rate was introduced on incomes over $5,000 ($71,600 in 2011 dollars), and the old rate of 5.0% on incomes above $10,000 ($143,000 in 2011 dollars) was raised to 10.0%.
Under the Revenue Act of 1864, a married couple earning the equivalent of $250,000 (in 2011 dollars) would have paid a tax of just 7.7%; those earning $1,000,000 would have paid 9.4%; and those earning $10,000,000 would have incurred a tax rate of just 9.9% (see table below).
|From Taxing the Rich|
Ending the Income Tax (1865 to 1872)
When the Act finally expired, the United States was again without an income tax; a condition that would last from 1873 until 1912, adding another 40 years to our tax-free heritage. By 1865, the 7.5% rate was increased to 10.0% leading to the highest tax rates for the period. By the end of 1866, when it was to have expired, the income tax was instead gradually phased out. The top rate was lowered to 5.0% between 1867 and 1869, and then to 2.5% from 1870 to 1872 (see tables below).
Between 1865 and 1866, a married couple earning the equivalent of $250,000 (in 2011 dollars) would have paid a tax of 8.4%; those earning $1,000,000 would have paid 9.6%; and those earning $10,000,000 would have incurred a tax rate of 10.0% (see table below).
|From Taxing the Rich|
|From Taxing the Rich|
"The freedoms won by Americans in 1776 were lost in the revolution of 1913." ~Frank Chodorov
During the first 137 years of American history (1776 1912), the income tax only existed for 11 years, while no income tax was imposed upon private citizens for 126 years. The highest tax rate assessed on married couples occurred between 1865 and 1866, when those earning the equivalent of $250,000 (in 2011 dollars) paid a tax of 8.4%, those earning $1,000,000 paid 9.6%, and those earning $10,000,000 incurred a tax rate of just 10.0%. In the current tax debate, those caterwauling for higher taxes on the wealthy should, if it is within them, remember their own heritage. An understanding of the origin of the American income tax system, its original intent and early rates, is essential to any meaningful dialogue.
Continued Taxing the Rich 1765 to 2011, Part II | Taxing the Rich 1765 to 2011, Part III
References / Related:
Spreadsheets: Historical Income Tax Data
Images: Tax Tables and Charts
Tax Foundation - Income Tax Tables: 1913 to 2011
Tax Acts of the United State, 1861 through 2010
The Origin of the Income Tax
Quick Revolutionary War Tour 1765-1777
Natural Born Conservative on Taxes
CPI Adjusted Dollars:
Good post. Thanks.
But what does any of this have to do with crony capitalism?
Uh! No income tax revenue for purposes other than Defense, equals no crony capitalism[.]
This particular day I drove by that lot I noticed four work trucks parked in the rounded driveway, each truck representing a different type of business, each one independent the other . Landscaping, electrical, plumbing and carpentry. The wealthy homeowners and their real estate somehow reminded me of a sort of "cow", and the small businesses, (likely earning a nice sum of money from the wealthy owners), were as the baby cows, suckling from the mother for their sustenance and growth. But the "suckling" represented WORKING and providing a needed service, not 'sucking', as in relying on the government and never giving, or having given, anything back to society during their lives.
I never took any courses in economics, but this is exactly how I saw our economy at work. Without the rich there is no middleclass. And without the middleclass there is no hope; no hope for the poor or average citizen to own a piece of what the "rich" own, and nothing to incentivize people to a better life, which in and of itself produces hard workers and entrepreneurs. With a middle class that is wide, (from lower, middle, to upper middleclass), there is great opportunity for any person who wants to work hard at both increasing his/her natural skills, and at putting in the effort to better themselves through hard work.
Over taxing the rich is destructive to any economy, because a free people mostly rely upon jobs provided by the rich and prosperous, and not on government. Though there will always be those people who truly need government help to survive, it's obvious that most Americans are indeed healthy enough physically and mentally to accomplish a great deal with just their own abilities. The "safety net" is imperitive to a healthy nation as well, but once the "safety net" is extended to too many people, such as illegal aliens and those who are born into families with a history of welfare existence and are addicted to it, then things begin to fall apart. Because the only way to provide a 'welfare state' is to tax the rich, the able and the good earners with a heavy, burdonsome tax. This of course means those taxes are passed on to the consumers in the form of higher costs for literally everything. It also means that lots of people are going to get laid off, or simply unable to work due to forced hiring freezes. Then this creates a greater need for government assistence.
Obama knows this very well. It's his ploy to MAKE people dependent on government, and to do that he has to demonize the "rich" and successful people, so that the average citizen hates them and sees them as their problem; hence more people will tend to agree with Obama that it's OK to hate the "rich" and over tax them. It's really Communism, and nothing else. And the way it's come into being is that we have two generations of morons, made into morons through the IGNORANCE that was foisted on them through the public school system. That too was all part of the bigger plan.
Really great post
Yes! And Obama will go down in history as the One, the one who re-awakened the true American spirit, causing the people to rise up in revolt and once and for all break the wobbly spine of big government.
The oft overlooked first bad Roosevelt.
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