How National Income Tax Began Under President Taft

Each year, millions of Americans must accumulate their financial records and fill out forms – or pay professionals to do it for them – in order to file their federal tax returns. This is an annual ritual that traditionally takes place in the spring, although in 2020 the Internal Revenue Service extended the April 15 filing deadline by three months due to disruption caused by the epidemic. COVID-19 virus.

For those who complain about having to contemplate these numbered boxes on the IRS 1040 form, they have William Howard Taft to thank. The 27th president of the country, who served only one term from 1909 to 1913, is probably best known for being the heaviest president in the history of the United States and the first to have driven in a limousine. presidential official and for his obsession with golf. But Taft also established federal income tax as a permanent part of American life.

READ MORE: Why we pay taxes

Abraham Lincoln first imposed an income tax

Taft did not really invent the idea of ​​a federal income tax. It would be Abraham Lincoln, who in 1861 convinced Congress to pass the income law and impose a temporary 3% tax on income over $ 800, as an emergency measure to help finance spending. massive military personnel required by the civil war. This measure could expire in 1872.

Panic of 1893

Investors panicked on the New York Stock Exchange in 1893.

The idea of ​​a federal income tax resurfaces after the Panic of 1893, an economic downturn so severe that it caused the loss of a quarter of the national workforce. As Jeffrey Rosen notes in his 2018 biography of Taft, the populist Democrats argued that the excise tariffs and taxes on which the government depended for its revenues placed a disproportionate burden on struggling farmers and workers, and argued for a tax that would capture more affluent Americans ” income.

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