Death and taxes! The origin of the modern income tax began with ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment authorized Congress to institute a graduated income tax on the earnings of American workers. This power thus enabled the passage of the Revenue Act of 1913. Read more about it!
The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.
The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.
June 17, 1909
United States Senator Norris Brown of Nebraska proposed the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
State legislatures across the U.S. begin to ratify the amendment.
February 3, 1913
Wyoming becomes the last of the three-fourths states needed to ratify the Sixteenth Amendment, which officially enables Congress to legally act on a permanent income tax.
Stockholders file a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, which argues the Sixteenth Amendment covers “many taxes other than on income.
January 24, 1916
The Supreme Court declares the income tax is constitutional by the Sixteenth Amendment.
March 8, 1920
The Supreme Court says stock dividends are “not taxable under the 1916 income tax law”.