The Documents that Made April Famous
Press Release · Friday, March 29, 2013

National Archives to Display Income Tax Amendment and the First "1040"

Washington, DC…It’s that time of year again. Tax time!

Throughout April, the National Archives will mark the centennial of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave Congress the power to impose an income tax on Americans.

The Archives is offering a special document display of:

  • The Joint Congressional resolution proposing the 16th Amendment to the states, July 2, 1909
  • The first Internal Revenue Bureau Form 1040, as provided by Public Law 63-16, approved October 3, 1913

The documents will be displayed from April 1 through April 30, 2013, in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building, Washington, DC. Exhibit hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., daily. Metro accessible on Yellow or Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter station.

The Civil War prompted the first American income tax, a flat 3-percent on all annual incomes over $800, in 1861. Congress enacted a 2-percent tax on annual income over $4,000 in 1894, but it was quickly struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

By the early 20th century, members of both the Democratic and Republican parties advocated a constitutional amendment allowing a Federal income tax. On July 12, 1909, Congress passed a joint congressional resolution proposing such an amendment. The resolution was then sent to the states for consideration. By February 3, 1913, three-quarters of the states— the number required by the Constitution for ratification—had approved it. Certified by Secretary of State Philander C. Knox on February 25, 1913, it then became the 16th Amendment to the Constitution.

In 1913, due to exemptions and deductions, less than 1 percent of the population paid income taxes. Tax rates began at 1 percent and rose to 6 percent on income over $500,000.

View an image of the 16th Amendment and first Form 1040 online. []

The National Archives Building in Washington, DC, is fully accessible. For information on free programs at the National Archives, call the National Archives Public Programs Line at: (202) 357-5000, or view the Calendar of Events online.

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For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

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