Happy Birthday to the Income Tax

Birthday Cake
Birthday Cake (Photo credit: Will Clayton)

Today is the 99th anniversary of the modern income tax system in the United States. (Look for the big 100th Birthday celebrations next year!)

The Revenue Act of 1913 was signed into law by Woodrow Wilson on October 3, 1913. The Act was drafted following the addition of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution (ratified February 3, 1913), which authorized Congress to levy an income tax without apportioning the tax among the states. Previous attempts to enact a federal income tax were halted by the Constitutional issues, which were resolved with the Amendment.

Our modern income tax system is a direct descendent of the 1913 Act. The revenue laws were first codified in 1939 into the first draft of the “Internal Revenue Code”, and the Code was subsequently overhauled in 1954 and 1986. The Code in force today is still referred to as the 1986 Code.


Old Form 1040s

The IRS has links to current and prior year’s tax forms.

Here is a link to the 1913 income tax Form 1040. With instructions, the package tops out at 4 pages.

Form 1040 from 1913

Here is a link to the 1864 income tax form (no form number).