In 1913, Wyoming ratified the 16th Amendment, providing the three-quarter majority of states necessary to amend the Constitution. The 16th Amendment gave Congress the authority to enact an income tax. That same year, the first Form 1040 appeared after Congress levied a 1 percent tax on net personal incomes above $3,000 with a 6 percent surtax on incomes of more than $500,000.

A Brief History of the IRS

It’s February. Tax season is in full swing. Employers, banks, and investment firms have mailed out W-2s and 1099s and other miscellaneous tax documents. These are beginning to pile up on kitchen tables across the country. Over the next few weeks people will sit down to puzzle out their tax situation.

The tax code has become enormously complex. It can be difficult to be sure you’re following all of the proper instructions. (I used to do my own taxes, but once I started my own business I handed them over to my accountant. I figure $200 is a small price to pay to be sure all the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted.)

The income tax didn’t used to be so complicated. When Congress re-introduced it in 1913, taxpayers filled out a simple three page form following one page of instructions. The IRS web site has the entire form available in PDF. I’ve reproduced it here as a series of JPEGs.

 
 
The four pages of the 1913 income tax form. Click on a page to see it full-sized.

This is a fun form to peruse. There are some great archaisms here, including discussion of “losses occurred during shipwreck”, provisions for mine owners, and detailed instructions for how farmers are supposed to figure income on wool and hides of slaughtered animals.

I wonder if there’s any hope that the 2007 income tax form will have tax deductions for bloggers.

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