102 Years of Taxation: Chart Shows How out of Control the IRS Has Gotten

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money bag

With the end of “tax season” nearly a week behind us, many Americans are likely moving through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, or acceptance.

It is probably not shocking to anyone to hear that the IRS is among the most hated and feared of the government agencies (it has taken first place in many annual polls). A quick look at the history of the income tax might provide some hints as to why we despise the agency so much:

From IJReview:

The modern income tax began in February 1913 when Congress passed the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, thanks to the administration of Republican William Howard Taft.

The House passed the short amendment in July 1909, with a 318 to 14 vote:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on income, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

The first tax bill came from the Woodrow Wilson administration in 1913. Wilson made the income tax a key part of his electoral campaign (the Republican party platform of 1912 did not mention the income tax).

This chart from Americans for Tax Reform shows just how much the income tax has grown since 1913:

As if that chart wasn’t painful enough to read, the nonprofit Tax Foundation (a nonpartisan research think tank based in Washington, DC) has published the following findings in its 2015 Tax Freedom Day article:

Tax Freedom Day is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year. Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income.

This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 24, or 114 days into the year.

Americans will pay $3.3 trillion in federal taxes and $1.5 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total bill of more than $4.8 trillion, or 31 percent of the nation’s income.

Tax Freedom Day is one day later than last year due mainly to the country’s continued steady economic growth, which is expected to boost tax revenue especially from the corporate, payroll, and individual income tax.

Americans will collectively spend more on taxes in 2015 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.

If you include annual federal borrowing, which represents future taxes owed, Tax Freedom Day would occur 14 days later on May 8.

Tax Freedom Day is a significant date for taxpayers and lawmakers because it represents how long Americans as a whole have to work in order to pay the nation’s tax burden.

This year, Americans will work the longest to pay federal, state, and local individual income taxes (43 days). Payroll taxes will take 26 days to pay, followed by sales and excise taxes (15 days), corporate income taxes (12 days), and property taxes (11 days). The remaining 7 days are spent paying estate and inheritance taxes, customs duties, and other taxes.

Michael Hausam of IJReview reminds us that Richard Byrd, the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1913, warned what he imagined income tax would become:

A hand from Washington will be stretched out and placed upon every man’s business; the eye of the Federal inspector will be in every man’s counting house. The law will of necessity have inquisitorial features, it will provide penalties, it will create complicated machinery. Under it men will be hailed into courts distant from their homes.

Heavy fines imposed by distant and unfamiliar tribunals will constantly menace the tax payer. An army of Federal inspectors, spies and detectives will descend upon the state. Who of us who have had knowledge of the doings of the Federal officials in the Internal Revenue service can be blind to what will follow?

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said:

“The American income tax is perhaps the most dramatic example of how government grows at the expense of liberty. Slowly. Constantly. Inexorably.”

Indeed, it is.

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  • Jon Geissinger

    This goes to show you have invasive they can become over time and nobody questions it; frog in the slowly heated beaker.
    Abolish the IRS, create a new agency, set a 15% flat tax with no exemptions (or filing). Very easy.

    • way2inform

      Would that be a 15% tax on your labor? Transactions? Sales tax?? It sounds very easy, but…..

      • Hipshot

        a flat sales tax would be good. If someone did not want to pay the tax, simply don’t consume. Everyone would pay tax according to how much they consume. Even illegals and visitors to this country. It would result in more money to the government than they are getting now. Down side, it would put millions of accountants, tax attorneys and related industry people out of a job. Up side, we would no longer need the IRS as we know it today. The central bank would never let this happen. They like things just the way they are. After all, the central bank/wall street is the boss. right?

        • Karl Knize

          Yes, if you don’t want to pay the tax then simply don’t ever buy a new car, appliance, etc., etc., etc…. If it looks like a simple solution, it more than likely isn’t.

      • tom_ma

        The Fair Tax seems as close to perfect as one could ever hope to get.

        • Reverend Draco

          Just for the record – what amount of theft do you consider “fair?”
          I’d like to know, so I can decide what caliber of firearm I’ll need when I “tax” you.

          • tom_ma

            Reverend, You need to switch to decaf. I think we’re on the same side so take a deep breath and relax. It’s the Fair Tax plan, with a capital “F” and a capital “T”. It’s a Bill on the floor of the House. It’ll never get passed… or even voted on because it takes all power away from Congress. It eliminates the IRS. And it involves a pre-bate that give you money at the beginning of each month to purchase the necessities. The only time you actually pay a tax is if you decide to purchase extras. It also taxes people involved in illegal business (drug dealers, prostitutes, illegal aliens) and tourists from other countries. It would immediately balance our budget. And it would put lobbyists out of business. http://www.fairtaxplan.org/

    • Reverend Draco

      So, 15% theft is acceptable? Got it.

      I guess it’s time to quit my job, buy a gun, and start “taxing” people as they leave Home Depot – 15% X 100s of people is a fair chunk of change. . .

      • Skye Bowen

        Just go to the till, and demand 15% of the contents.

        • Reverend Draco

          Either way. . . I’m just glad to finally have a solid answer as to how much theft is acceptable.

    • Karl Knize

      So you want to tax low income workers at 15%? Are you also going to eliminate summary taxes like payroll? Fuel?

      This economy only works because of a progressive system.

  • way2inform

    “Its probably not shocking that the IRS is one of the most hated and feared of the government agencies” STOP, STOP RIGHT THERE.
    the I R S is NOT a government agency

    • RE


  • way2inform


    You morons gonna let little slip ups like those words in, your allowing the dis info psy-op to continue. You have to keep sentences like that in check or add a disclaimer. It’s shit like that that’s keeping the poor broke And dumb where they are. Subtle yet very real psy op shit.
    “Most hate and feared of all government agencies” my fuckin ass author of this article. You write articles to inform and you say shit like that? Homework please

  • IRS can be your bestest buddy : https://www.google.com/search?q=public+law+73-10%2C+code+31-sect+5118&rlz=1CASMAE_enUS524US524&oq=public+law+73-10%2C+code+31-sect+5118&aqs=chrome..69i57&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8

    discharge all debt by sending your A4V to the IRS CID division…….enjoy life

  • Infidel51


  • Karl Knize

    I notice that taxation across the 50’s was left out. The greatest expansion period along with some of the highest taxes. If Libertarian loons prefer the quality of life and standard of living of 1913 then some latin american country is beckoning.

  • The Help

    The top tax bracket is paid by the lowest earners that have little or no deductions.

    • Karl Knize

      That makes no sense.

      • The Help

        Karl the chart is based on percentages not dollars so the more write-offs you have the lower your percentage. Interest, business expenses etc. The less you earn the fewer of these write-offs you have.

        • Karl Knize

          The lowest earners have no deductions, and pay no federal income tax, but in sum pay about as much in taxes as a percentage of income as the top tax bracket. The top bracket, via a rigged tax code of over seven thousand pages, doesn’t pay anywhere near the statutory rate. How having write-offs, or in reality not paying federal taxes or receiving EITC’s, and saying that this pays for the upper bracket still makes no sense.

          • The Help

            So what you are telling me is that a person that earns $10,000 to $15,000 dollars per year pays $0 federal tax ?

          • Karl Knize

            Yes, that’s what I’m telling you.

          • The Help

            Then I guess I will have to tell the part time employee that works two days a week (his choice) that the federal tax deducted from his check is just a figment of his imagination.

          • Karl Knize

            I said federal income tax, not payroll witholding/fica

          • The Help

            Let me see on our pay stubs it lists FedTax Withholding, Social Security Employee, Medicare Employeeand MA Withholding

          • Karl Knize

            That’s what it is. We contribute to social security, and if we make very little the withholding is refunded. And if we have kids and make very little, we receive an Earned Income Tax Credit.

            So what’s your point? Do you think that there should be no taxes? No contribution?

            Somalia awaits. A Libertarian paradise.

          • The Help

            Like I stated earlier if you have more write-offs your tax is lower Auto Exp, Office Exp.Etc. and usually higher earners have more expenses ergo lower tax rate.

          • Karl Knize

            If you don’t pay federal income tax, if it isn’t owed, then the write-offs are irrelevant.

          • Karl Knize

            So how can you have a tax rate lower than zero?

  • way2inform

    Start with the 2 hr movie freedom to fascism. Hard to imagine all that combined effort being put into a project and it all be an absolute farce. Then see http://famguardian.org/. Go to left side of page and click on the great irs tax hoax book. It is free to download. Read the intro and 1st 3 chapters to start. Theres your homework. Be free

  • Keith Luxton

    America is being killed by letting the politicians run riot with out any controls. Controls were put in when the law was accepted by most. Now the Politicians, Judges and government ignore any law that does not suit their agenda. We have become a one party system. with both Liberal and GOP Senators and Reps ignoring what the constituents want and follow America’s Hitler down the road to ruin.