This month marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 16th Amendment, which gave Congress the power to tax American incomes...the 16th Amendment was accorded little emotion when it received a thumbs-up from both houses in 1909.
That was because most congressmen backed the amendment for the wrong reason — they firmly believed that no such taxing proposal would ever be ratified by the requisite three-fourths of the states. It was thought that wealthy Americans lobbying their state legislatures would bury it. Besides, the federal government was in good fiscal shape back then...In July 1909, the measure passed the Senate 77 to 0, the House by 318 to 14.
Opponents, however, seemed to have guessed correctly on the reluctance of the states. After six months, only one, Alabama, had ratified the amendment. A mere eight states approved it in 1910. The pace picked up in 1911, with 22 getting on the ratification bandwagon.
No matter. Opponents reasoned that the matter was dead, for no previous amendment had remained viable 2 1/2 years after congressional approval, even though only five more states were necessary to reach the required 36.
Then, surprisingly, the presidential campaign of 1912 breathed new life into the measure. All three candidates — incumbent President William Howard Taft, Democrat Woodrow Wilson and third-party challenger Theodore Roosevelt — supported the amendment. On Feb. 3, 1913, the required approval by 36 states had been achieved after a record 43 months on the ratification stump.
But the worst was yet to come. Writing a constitutional amendment was much easier than devising implementing legislation. Congress couldn't agree on the rates and finer details, until October 1913.
And administrative provisions were slow to come. None of the three-page tax forms was available for the first tax year of reporting — 1913 — until Jan. 8, 1914.
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