A Taxing Amendment

By | Feb 25, 2009

On February 25, 1913, a little over three years after the Sixty-first Congress passed an amendment to the Constitution, Secretary of State Philander Knox announced that the Sixteenth Amendment had been ratified. The Amendment gave Congress, “… the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

The amendment needed 36 of the then 48 states to ratify it. On February 3, 1913, New Mexico, Delaware and Wyoming became the 36th, 37th and 38th states to approved the amendment. By the time of Knox’s announcement it had also been ratified by New Jersey and Vermont, bringing the number up to 40.

In total only 42 of the States would ratify the amendment. Connecticut, Florida, Rhode Island and Utah rejected it without ever subsequently ratifying it with Pennsylvania and Virginia never bringing it to a vote.

Congress quickly went into action and on October 3, 1913 President Woodrow Wilson signed the Revenue Act of 1913. The Act passed the House, 281 to 139, in May, 1913 and Wilson helped to guide it to Senate passage in September, 1913 with a 44 to 37 vote. Politically it was considered a major triumph for President Wilson.

The Sixteenth Amendment did not give Congress the power to tax incomes, as many may believe. They always had that right. It allowed them to tax without the amount to be apportioned among the states based on their populations.

Before 1913, most of the money that came into the United States Government was through tariffs. It didn’t take long for that to change. Part of the Revenue Act of 1913 reduced a number of tariffs and soon the tax on personal income was greater than that brought in through tariffs.


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1 Comment so far
  1. Mike Harmon February 25, 2009 12:46 am

    I must say this is a great article i enjoyed reading it keep the good work :)

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