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History of the Income Tax The federal progressive income tax has been an issue that has been argued on the floors of Congress in front of the United States Supreme Court in front of television cameras and around the dinner table The tax served its purpose in supplementing revenue during the Civil War and World War I but continued taking from Americans income in peacetime allowing fewer dollars to be spent on goods and services When the American government was in a deficit it was harder to argue for the abolishment of the income tax but now that Congress is looking at a government surplus for the first time in decades the question is raised again Do we have to have a progressive federal income tax Prior to the Civil War the vast majority of government funds came from tariffs on imports The only exception was during the War of 1812 when blockades by the British as well as the war being with the young countrys number one trade partner lowered income from tariffs Government revenues were accompanied by funds from the sale of public lands such as the Louisiana Territory and the Oregon Country as well as excise taxes which were introduced during the War of 1812 Hansen 62 As Abraham Lincoln who once said that he had no money sense and never enough money to fret him came into office with a national debt of nearly 75 million and Slocum 2 little to no inflow of customs duties as well as an outflow of investments to foreign countries by investors who feared war After attempts to raise money by selling bonds doubling tariffs increasing excise taxes and creating license fees it was realized that another form of tax was needed Paul 7-8 Witte 67 The details of the tax however were not agreed on easily The tax was originally proposed to tax land in each state with revenue to be handed
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