Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 23 Internal Revenue Taxation

Chapter 23. Records of the Joint Committees of Congress 1789-1968 (Record Group 128)

Table of Contents

Records of the Joint Committees of Congress 1789-1989 (Record Group 128) from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 1789-1988

Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation (1926-75)
Joint Committee on Taxation (1976-88)

JC.059 With the exception of the Civil War period, before 1913 the United States Government had derived most of its revenue from indirect taxes, such as duties and excise taxes. On February 25, 1913, however, the 16th Amendment was added to the Constitution, clearing the way for Federal income taxes. In October of that year, under section 2 of an act to reduce tariff duties and to provide revenue for the Government (Public Law 63-16), the Federal Government imposed an income tax and began relying on direct taxation for its main source of revenue. The years immediately following brought a flurry of other tax laws, due in part to the demand for Government expenditures associated with World War I. The revenue collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Federal agency assigned to collect the income tax, increased 956 percent from 1916 to 1920. It was admittedly a period of experimentation regarding tax policy, and problems abounded.

JC.060 In 1924, the Senate established the Select Committee on Investigation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in response to problems in the administration of the tax system. In its report of February 6, 1926 (S. Rept. 27, 69th Cong., 1st sess., Serial 8529), the select committee called for Congress to develop expertise in this area and to maintain close contact with the Bureau. Accordingly, on February 26, the Revenue Act of 1926 (Public Law 69-20) established the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation to investigate the operation, effects, and administration of Federal internal revenue taxes and to study ways the system might be improved. Its 10 members were evenly drawn from the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Ways and Means Committee. 1

JC.061 The committee was given no legislative authority. Instead, it retained a professional staff of lawyers, economists, accountants, statisticians, and other tax experts to study and analyze the tax system and recommend improvements in it. Within a short time, the staff of the joint committee had become trusted advisors on tax issues for the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the joint committee, Representative Daniel A. Reed of New York summarized this important role in the Congressional Record:

    The Joint Committee staff generally has furnished the entire technical assistance to both the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Finance of the Senate on every item of tax legislation, large and small, irrespective of which party happened to be in control of the Congress at any particular time. Thus, the staff has been a truly nonpartisan one, providing an extraordinary reservoir of professional talent available to all Members of the Congress regardless of party.2

JC.062 In the course of its consideration of tax laws and tax policy, the joint committee staff worked both jointly with agency personnel and independently. They conferred with businessmen, economists, lawyers, individual taxpayers, and representatives of various tax organizations. Besides studies and analysis, the committee was given the additional duties of reviewing proposed individual tax refunds in excess of $75,000 and codifying the internal revenue laws.

JC.063 The records of the committee from its inception through 1968 total approximately 460 linear feet. They were transferred to the National Archives in lots over a period of years, beginning in 1973. The records are in several series, in part reflecting the periodic nature of the transfers. A few series are limited to certain document types, such as publications of the joint committee or publications of other committees. Most, however, are large, general series containing a mixture of document types. Among these general series, the arrangement may be alphabetical by subject or by section of the Internal Revenue Code. In addition, there is considerable overlapping of dates covered and types of documents included, and some records have no discernible arrangement.

JC.064 The records include correspondence (much of it with Members of Congress), memorandums, staff working papers, studies, statistical data, congressional and agency publications, pamphlets and other informational materials, press releases, news clippings, administrative papers, and binders regarding specific tax legislation. There is material on the Federal budget, public debt, tax reform, the administration and operations of the Bureau of Internal Revenue or (after 1953) the Internal Revenue Service, social security, estate taxes, sales taxes, withholding, antitrust activities, life insurance companies, political campaign financing, specific tax cases, and myriad other subjects relating to Federal taxation policy and practices.

JC.065 A manuscript, informal list that provides some indication of the topics covered in 1067 boxes of the records of the joint committee now in the National Archives is available for use.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1989.


1 The Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation is currently known as the Joint Committee on Taxation. The name change occurred in 1976 (90 Stat. 1835).

2 Congressional Record, 84th Cong., 2d sess., 27 July 1956, vol. 102, pt. 11, p. 15341.

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Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42) by Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989), and Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-245) by Charles E. Schamel, Mary Rephlo, Rodney Ross, David Kepley, Robert W. Coren, and James Gregory Bradsher (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989).