It's Tax Day! 13 Interesting Facts About US Taxes

I know what you’re saying, “Wow, fun.” Well, hush. It’s tax day and you probably don’t know much trivia about taxes. For example, did you know that chewing gum paid (in part) for the Spanish American War? See? That’s interesting.

13 Interesting Facts About Taxes:

• Before the American Revolution there were few taxes. The Southern colonies taxed imports and exports. The middle ones were fond of a poll tax or head tax that taxed every adult male, and New England was all about property taxes. Then the British went to war with France and levied taxes against the colonies in order to pay for it. This did not go over well, to say the least.

• The Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1781, did not have a nationwide tax system. Instead, it relied on donations from the states. This did not work.

• The Constitution, adopted in 1789, finally allowed the US government to levy taxes. They slapped a tax on “distilled spirits, tobacco and snuff, refined sugar, carriages, property sold at auctions, and various legal documents” to pay for the Revolution.

• The Whiskey Rebellion taught President Washington that it was risky to impose a largely unenforceable tax on whiskey.

• From 1817 to 1861 the Federal Government collected no internal revenue.

• During the Civil War the first income tax was levied “at 3 percent on all incomes higher than $800 a year.” This income tax was expanded, then abolished in 1872.

• The War Revenue Act of 1899 levied (among other taxes) a tax on chewing gum in order to pay for the Spanish-American War.

• In 1913 Congress passed the 16th amendment to the Constitution allowing income tax. Form 1040 was introduced and is still in use today.

• In 1916 Congress deleted the word “lawful” before the word “income” making illegal income taxable.

• Social Security Taxes began in 1935. This tax provided “unemployment compensation” for those who had lost their jobs and aid for various people who needed it.

• By 1945, 43 million Americans were paying income tax. In 1939, there were only 4 million income tax payers.

• In 1953, the Bureau of Internal Revenue changed its name to the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS.

• The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 brought the top tax bracket down to 50%. Previously, it had been as high as 94%.

See? Not too painful. And you’re so much smarter now. —MEGHANN MARCO

History of the U.S. Tax System [Department of the Treasury]
(Photo: samuelcharlessolom onthethird)


Edit Your Comment

  1. ShadeWalker says:

    It still sucks that we work 4 months out of the year for the government.

  2. Canadian Impostor says:

    It would also suck if we didn’t have roads or the police.

  3. ShadeWalker says:

    @Jason: roads and the police are overrated anyway

  4. xkaluv says:

    Here are some interresting facts about taxes for you…

  5. mindshadow says:

    @Jason: I’m pretty sure that if they cut down the bullshit spending, we’d be sending in a lot less of our money for income tax. Ever seen how much military contractors charge? Or how much of your money just gets straight up wasted? Big governments are expensive to run.

  6. SimonGodOfHairdos says:

    @Jason: Public libraries too. I would really miss those if they went away. And that fine public school I attended that taught me how to read the books that are contained in the public library was also useful. Taxes don’t suck, those in DC who waste the money do!

  7. grkgus says:

    Be happy they are not higher. Some countries have 100-300% tax on luxury purchases such as cars and other items.

  8. indianaguy says:


    I agree, government waste is a huge problem. One thing that we have to realize is that the government is such a ridiculously large entity that there is going to be waste ( don’t waste your time commenting on pork barrel spending we all know i’m not talking about that ). What we need to do is privatize some of the things that government does.

  9. ScramDiggyBooBoo says:

    Yeah, have you been down to Louisiana lately? They built that place back up in no time. Its amazing. Oh wait, i meant to say Iraq, my bad. Yeah, taxes are great…for spending 2 billion dollars a week in a foreign country!!!

  10. Canadian Impostor says:

    @SimonGodOfHairdos: Absolutely. I’m not saying our government doesn’t waste money, but lets focus our ire on the people wasting the money, not the system in general.

  11. schmoozer says:

    IRS Extends Deadline To April 19 For Storm Victims.
    Washingotn – The Internal Revenue Service has granted a two-day reprieve to residents of Northeastern states who lost power or were flooded during this week’s severe storm, extending their annual tax-filing deadline to midnight Thursday.

    To qualify for the special extension, residents have to write “April 16 storm,” preferably in red ink, at the top of their tax return before mailing it in. Taxpayers filing electronically should use the special disaster settings in their tax software, the agency said.

    “Because this unusually forceful storm hit within 24 hours of the filing deadline, we are giving affected taxpayers 48 additional hours,” IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said. [AP]

  12. godai says:

    Wasn’t there an article about one of the guys refusing to pay tax and offering a $1 million bounty on the law which allowed taxes to be collected?

    Isn’t Article 16 the answer?

  13. indianaguy says:


    Have you been to the areas in mississippi that were hit by the storm, they are rebuilt and back on track. Why you ask? Oh is it because those people took it upon themselves to fix things instead of waiting for a government handout.

    The government is not supposed to be the be all end all in every situation. My point is exactly that, we need to take some of the burden upon ourselves.

  14. Prosumerist says:

    I’d like to argue that in a democracy the people should have a say in where their hard-earned taxes go. Bankrolling a for-profit war or corporate tax breaks are reasons I’d rather tell the IRS to shove it.

  15. indianaguy says:


    You do have the say. The IRS has no control over the war or what corporations get tax breaks (which by the way are a good thing). It is your represntatives that do, the ones that were voted in by the people for the people.

    strange how our country works … like it always has

  16. rockstarjoe says:

    I work for the government. Due to numerous budget cuts we often don’t even have basic supplies. People pitch in and bring things like pens and paper from home. Everyone here is very thrifty and recognizes that we must be responsible spending other people’s money. We could all take jobs in the private sector but we have chosen service to our country instead. People are constantly fed this conservative BS that the government is buying solid gold toilet seats, but reality paints a different picture. Taxes pay for important stuff.

  17. Sudonum says:

    What parts of Mississippi are you referring to?

  18. Sudonum says:

    And perhaps you should take a look at this article

  19. battlerobo says:

    Done my taxes! Yippie!

    I wonder what the government actually uses the budget for… well I wondered no more:

    There’s a wonderful graph that helps show how much of the federal budget goes into where…

  20. Theseus says:

    @mindshadow: I just read a Vanity Fair piece on SAIC, which is very much like Halliburton, and they cited a statstic that every dollar of taxes collected from folks with $100,000 or less in income went to government contractors.

    Not all defense spending, but that still blew my mind!