Tuesday, April 15, 2008

1863 War Tax in New York

Well, Tax Day is here and if you haven't already done your taxes, I guess you will be busy tonite! Mine were done back in February and since I owed the State of Illinois just a wee bit, I opted to wait until last week to mail the payment.

In tribute to taxes, I recently discovered The Income Record: A List Giving the Taxable Income of Every Resident of New York - published in 1863 by the American News Company, New York, New York. I was amazed when I found this on Google books and it has helped me place some of my ancestors in New York during that time period. But I find it rather odd that you could get your hands on a book that listed your family members' and neighbors' incomes, as well as those of the Vanderbilts and the Goulds. The highest income listed is $1,843,637 and the smallest is $1.

The preface lays out the objectives of this book: 1) to "satisfy an imperious public curiousity . . ."; 2) to help others determine whether or not their neighbors ". . . perform their duty in bearing their share of the public burdens . . ."; and 3)to ". . . furnish trustworthy statistics . . ."(1)

The concept of a personal income tax in the United States was first introduced as part of the Revenue Act of 1861 to help pay for the costs of the War of the Rebellion. The tax rate from 1861 through 1872 was 3% of all incomes over $800.(2)

It was not until 1913, with the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was there a permanent personal income tax. The first tax rate was 1% for taxable net income over $3,000 rising to a rate of 7% on incomes over $500,000.(3)

Since 1913, the tax rate has fluctuated to as high as 94% for certain income levels during WWII to as low as 0.375% in 1929.(4)

Oh, and by the way: Tax Freedom Day is April 23rd - the first day of the year when you begin to keep your own income and have theoretically already paid all your taxes for the year.(5)


(1) The Income Record: A List Giving the Taxable Income of Every Resident of New York, New York, New York: American News Company, 1863, p. iii.

(2) Income Tax in the United States, (www.wikipedia.org) accessed on April 6, 2008.

(3) Id.

(4) Id.

(5) Tax Freedom Day, (www.wikipedia.org) accessed on April 6, 2008.

1 comment:

Laura said...

This looks really good, Thomas, thank you for mentioning it - Google Books i just amazing isn't it?

Ancestry has posted some IRS tax lists too, starting with the 1863-66 ons I think.