TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, July 29, 2004

New Book: Richard Joseph, The Origins of the American Income Tax

Thursday, July 29, 2004

book coverRichard Joseph (Texas - Dep't of Accounting) has published The Origins of the American Income Tax: The Revenue Act of 1894 and its Aftermath (Syracuse Univ. Press, 2004). Here is the publisher's description:

Why do critics want to pull up the income tax by its roots? Why do we have an income tax altogether especially if its principles are no longer workable and the tax no longer serves its intended purpose? Or are the roots, in fact, still viable? This compelling book seeks answers to those questions in long-forgotten archives of tax history.

Drawing on rare records from Congress, Richard J. Joseph demonstrates how the idea of relating taxes to individuals and businesses evolved during 1893-1895, leading in 1894 to enactment of the first American income tax legislation. That initial law, he notes, was intended to create a permanent and a fair "ability-to-pay" system. With an eye for detail Joseph explores ways in which it would serve as a model for future revenue. He explains how global and domestic changes have rendered it passi. And he shows how much of that early lawdespite its swift demise in the case of Pollock v. The Farmers Loan & Trust Companyinforms our current federal taxation system.

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I don't understand; wasn't the first income tax legislation enacted during the Civil War?

Specifically, the final clause of the first sentence of the third paragraph is demonstrably false. See generally:

These links describe a history that most readers of this blog are probably familiar with. Sloppy editing maybe?

Posted by: Brian | Jul 29, 2004 3:00:43 PM

Correct. The first U.S. income tax was enacted in 1861. It was intended to be a temporary measure. The 1894 tax, by contrast, was intended to be a permanent feature of the American fiscal system. BTW, the publisher, not the author, drafted the above ad. --R.Joseph

Posted by: richard joseph | Jan 12, 2005 11:40:56 AM