FLASHBACK: The 1913 Tax Return Form

As we begin tax season, here’s something to ponder.

1n 1913, the 16th Amendment was ratified which granted Congress the ability to levy a personal income tax. Below is a scan of the tax form from 100 years ago:

That is the first page of the 1913 1040. It is FOUR pages in its entirety — 3 pages of calculations and 1 page of instructions. The rest of the pages are at the end.

The income tax for that year was a 1% tax on net income greater than $3,000. It also included a 6% surtax on incomes of more than $500,000.

There are some charming provisions on here, such as how farmers can calulate income on wool and hides of slaughtered animals, or how to deal with “losses occurred during shipwreck”.

What this document shows, however, is that it took merely 100 years to go from 4 pages to 1000s of pages just for Americans to calculate their tax burdens and tax compliance to the government.

There is something incredibly wrong with that. The 1913 tax form is a good argument for the need for comprehensive tax reform.