Taxing and Spending Power – Article I Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution

The United States Constitution

Also see “Amendment 16 (Sixteenth Amendment – Income Tax)

The Taxing and Spending Clause is found in the Constitution of the United States, Article. I. Section. 8., clause 1:

(Clause 1 – Power to tax and spend)

[The Congress shall have Power] To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

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Section 8 begins the enumerated powers of the federal government delegated to Congress. The first is the power to tax and to spend the money raised by taxes, to provide for the nation’s defense and general welfare. This section was supplemented by the 16th amendment, which permitted Congress to levy an income tax.

By 1913, 36 States had ratified the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. In October, 1913, Congress passed a new income tax law with rates beginning at 1 percent and rising to 7 percent for taxpayers with income in excess of $500,000. Less than 1 percent of the population paid income tax at the time.
 
 


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The federal, state, and local tax systems in the United States have been marked by significant changes over the years in response to changing circumstances and changes in the role of government. The types of taxes collected, their relative proportions, and the magnitudes of the revenues collected are all far different than they were 50 or 100 years ago. Some of these changes are traceable to specific historical events, such as a war or the passage of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution that granted the Congress the power to levy a tax on personal income. Other changes were more gradual, responding to changes in society, in our economy, and in the roles and responsibilities that government has taken unto itself.

For most of our nation’s history, individual taxpayers rarely had any significant contact with Federal tax authorities as most of the Federal government’s tax revenues were derived from excise taxes, tariffs, and customs duties. Before the Revolutionary War, the colonial government had only a limited need for revenue, while each of the colonies had greater responsibilities and thus greater revenue needs, which they met with different types of taxes. For example, the southern colonies primarily taxed imports and exports, the middle colonies at times imposed a property tax and a “head” or poll tax levied on each adult male, and the New England colonies raised revenue primarily through general real estate taxes, excises taxes, and taxes based on occupation.

England’s need for revenues to pay for its wars against France led it to impose a series of taxes on the American colonies. In 1765, the English Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which was the first tax imposed directly on the American colonies, and then Parliament imposed a tax on tea. Even though colonists were forced to pay these taxes, they lacked representation in the English Parliament. This led to the rallying cry of the American Revolution that “taxation without representation is tyranny” and established a persistent wariness regarding taxation as part of the American culture.

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