April 18, 2016

The Long Sordid Tale of the American Income Tax

Veronique de Rugy

George Gibbs Chair in Political Economy
Summary

The tax code today is a 76,000-page monstrosity, and the current top marginal rate of 39.6 percent will hit all married filers with taxable income of $466,950 and higher.

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It's the time of year again when most Americans will be filing their income taxes. As if that's not painful enough all by itself, here's a little more salt for your wounds. 

First, some history: In 1913 the U.S. federal individual income tax was enacted following the passage of the 16th Amendment, which granted Washington the authority to take a piece of citizens' paychecks. According to the Tax Foundation, the top tax rate that year (adjusted for inflation) was 7 percent on income above $11.5 million; the lowest rate was 1 percent on income under $463,826.

Oh, how things have changed. The tax code today is a 76,000-page monstrosity, and the current top marginal rate of 39.6 percent will hit all married filers with taxable income of $466,950 and higher.

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