The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 12, No. 1 Spring 1985
William D. Samson UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY INCOME TAX IN THE SOUTH
Abstract: In this paper, an author discovers his heritage: the income taxes which evolved in the South of the United States during the nineteenth century. These taxes are of interest because many tax concepts which are now taken for granted were developed during this time. Of particular interest are the common factors and events which led most southern states and the Confederacy to experiment with an income tax. These experiments influenced the structure of the United States federal and state income taxes in the next century.
The United States federal income tax did not emerge suddenly with the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment. Rather, the modern U.S. income tax, adopted in 1913, is the product of long develop-ment, experimentation and evolution. The current income tax sys-tem can be traced to the faculty tax used by the New England Colonies, to the United Kingdom income tax introduced during the emergency of the Napoleonic Wars, to the federal income tax adopted by the North during the Civil War and to the income tax experiments of several southern states in the nineteenth century. These, in turn, influenced not only public acceptance of the income tax and the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment, but also the form and content of the income tax law and the administration of the re-sulting tax system.
At the time the Sixteenth Amendment was adopted, and the 1913 Tax Act was passed, no part of the United States had had as much experience with the income tax as the South. Almost every south-ern state utilized the income tax at some time during the second half of the nineteenth century. Three southern states still levied an income tax when the federal income tax was made constitutional. In addition to its use in southern states, the Confederacy developed a "national" income tax during the Civil War. This little remem-bered tax was apparently more successful, better designed and
The author appreciates the helpful comments of the anonymous reviewers and editors.