According to the Library of Congress, the first officially recognized individual income tax return was filed in the spring of 1914. The filing deadline, however, was not April 15th, but rather March 1st.
The federal income tax system went through a series of test trials before being established on February 3rd, 1913.
The first test occurred during the Civil War when the government enforced the Revenue Act of 1861. The bill taxed personal incomes to compensate for war expenses. After the war, farmers on the east coast were hard pressed against income taxes because of their recovery after the war and the rising costs of manufactured goods.
In 1894, Congress passed a flat rate Federal income tax of 2% on incomes over $4000. The Supreme Court immediately struck down the bill. The Court called the tax unconstitutional since the rate did not account for the population of each state.
However, the Sixteenth Amendment defeated objections to the flat rate, despite states’ populations. Congress passed the amendment on July 2, 1909, and ratified it in 1913 under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Much different from today, those who paid Federal taxes in 1914 paid out equal or less than 1% of their net income!
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