An Emergency…”Temporary” Tax

Today in History, August 5, 1861:

“This bill is a most unpleasant one. But we perceive no way in which we can avoid it and sustain the government. The rebels, who are now destroying or attempting to destroy this Government, have thrust upon the country many disagreeable things.”

— Thaddeus Stevens, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means speaking on the Revenue Act of 1861, the nation’s first income tax, which was signed into law by President Lincoln on this date.

The law also provided for certain property taxes and levies on imports, which Lincoln feared would be impeded in the Southern ports by seceding states.

The tax was by intent and design temporary, meant to fund the fight to restore the Union in the Civil War. Changes would be made in 1862, and the law would be repealed in 1871.

But the dye had been cast, and the 16th Amendment of 1909/1913 would bring the ever increasing tax back for good.

Innovation in Taxation 

Today in History, July 16: 1935 – The world’s first parking meter, Park-o-meter No. 1, is installed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Newspaperman Carl McGee came up with the idea after local businessmen became concerned that an ever increasing number of automobiles were taking up parking spaces. The idea was that parkers (customers) would be encouraged to move along so that more parkers (customers) could fill their spots. The incidental new tax on citizens was a happy by product. The idea was popular amongst city governments and by 1940 there were 140,000 meters in operation in the country.

You Say Tomato, I say…Taxes!

Today in History, May 10: 1893 – The Supreme Court rules, in Nix v Hedden, that the tomato is a vegetable, not a fruit. This weighty issue came to the court via taxes being levied on vegetables by the the collector of the port of New York. The court’s logic…”Justice Gray, citing several Supreme Court cases (Brown v. Piper, 91 U.S. 37, 42, and Jones v. U.S., 137 U.S. 202, 216) stated that when words have acquired no special meaning in trade or commerce, the ordinary meaning must be used by the court. In this case dictionaries cannot be admitted as evidence, but only as aids to the memory and understanding of the court. Gray acknowledged that botanically, tomatoes are classified as a “fruit of the vine”; nevertheless, they are seen as vegetables because they were usually eaten as a main course instead of being eaten as a dessert.” So…there is precedence for…its not a mandate, its a tax…because we say so.