The National Archives Marks Tax Day
Press Release · Thursday, April 13, 2017

Washington, D.C.

Special webpage and link to infamous tax evader Al Capone's court file

"The income tax law is a lot of bunk. The government can't collect legal taxes from illegal money."

Attributed to Al Capone (later convicted of tax evasion)

Each April, millions of Americans stay up too late, nervously eat too much, snap pencils, argue with family members, search for errant receipts, and double-check their math as they complete their Federal income tax returns.  This year marks the 104th anniversary of the constitutional amendment that made this a yearly ritual.

To help our fellow Americans, and in recognition of April’s status as “Stress Awareness Month,” the National Archives has created a special new webpage highlighting tax-related resources on National Archives News, digitized and placed online the records of The United States of America v. Alphonse Capone, and, compiled the following “fun facts” about the history of taxes.

“Fun facts” about tax history:

  • The first income tax in 1862 was an emergency fundraiser for the Union cause in the Civil War. It was a flat 3 percent on all annual incomes over $800 in 1861.
  • In 1894, Congress enacted a 2-percent tax on annual income over $4,000, but the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional.
  • The first tax form 1040, circa 1913, was only four pages, including a single page of instructions (by contrast, today’s instructions for the basic form total are 106 pages).
  • In 1913, less than 1 percent of the population owed any income tax, and paid at the rate of only 1 percent of net income.
  • Notorious gangster and criminal Al Capone was never convicted of violating the National Prohibition Act -- he was indicted for income tax evasion. For the first time, the court records from this criminal case, The United States of America v. Alphonse Capone, are available online, from the holdings of the National Archives at Chicago.
  • The IRS enforced Prohibition!  The Bureau of Prohibition was a unit under the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
  • “Lady Hooch Hunter” was one of the most famous Prohibition agents (aka Daisy Simpson).  
  • Taxes were once due in March, not April!  In 1913, the filing deadline was March 1.  The deadline changed to March 15 in 1918, and only moved to April 15 in 1955.


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For press information, please contact the National Archives Public and Media Communications Staff at (202) 357-5300.



This page was last reviewed on April 14, 2017.
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