Today in Legal History: Lincoln Signs the Revenue Act, Imposing First Federal Income Tax

On August 5, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Revenue Act, passed by Congress, implementing the first income tax ever levied by the federal government. A month earlier, President Lincoln met with Congress to deal with the national emergency caused by the outbreak of the Civil War.  In an effort to generate the funds necessary to pursue the war efforts, Lincoln and Congress decided to impose a 3 percent tax on annual incomes over $800. In 1871, Congress repealed Lincoln’s tax law, but passed the 16th amendment in 1909, which established the federal income-tax system in place today. In 1913, Congress ratified the 16th Amendment.

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