As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”
While this quote was penned in 1789, his words still ring true today. U.S. taxation has changed over time, but it has always existed in some shape or form for over 250 years.
U.S. Taxation: 1765 to Today
In today’s infographic from New York Life Investments, we explore the history of U.S. taxation – from its colonial roots to its recent reform.
The modern American tax code has little resemblance to its early iterations.
Over the last few centuries, Americans have battled against British taxation, faced sky-high tax rates to fund war efforts, and enjoyed tax cuts designed to boost economic growth.
A Timeline of U.S. Taxation
Today, total U.S. tax revenue exceeds $3.4 trillion. Below are some notable events that have shaped modern American taxation.
Colonial Roots: 1765 to 1783
1765 – Stamp Act
In its first direct tax on the colonists, Britain places a tax on all paper – including ship’s papers, court documents, advertisements, and even playing cards.
1767 – Townshend Revenue Act
Importation duties are placed on British products such as glass, paint, and tea. The taxes are expected to raise £40,000 annually, (£6,500,000 in 2018 GBP). As hostilities continue to bubble up, colonists argue for “No taxation without representation”. Although taxes are imposed on the colonists, they aren’t able to elect representatives to British parliament.
1770 – The Boston Massacre
British troops occupy Boston to end the boycott on British goods. The March 5th Boston Massacre sees five colonists killed. By April, all Townshend duties are repealed except for the one on tea.
1773 – The Tea Act (May 10)
Britain grants the struggling British East India Company a monopoly on tea in America. While no new taxes are imposed, this angers colonists as it is seen as a thinly veiled plan to gain colonial support for the Townshend tax while threatening local business.
1773 – The Boston Tea Party (December 16)
Three ships arrive in Boston carrying British East India Company tea. Colonists refuse to allow the unloading of the tea, throwing all 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbour.
1775-1783 – The American Revolutionary War
Growing tensions between Britain and the colonists erupt in a full-scale war. After eight long years, Britain officially recognizes the independence of the United States.
A Free Nation: 1787 to 1943
1787 – The U.S. Constitution
Congress gains the “power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises.” The government primarily earns revenue from excise taxes and tariffs, including an “importation tax” on slaves.
1791-1794 – Whiskey Rebellion
Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Secretary of Treasury, leads the implementation of a whiskey excise tax. In 1794, whiskey rebels destroy a tax inspector’s home. President Washington sends in troops and quells the rebellion.
1862 – The Nation’s First Income Tax
To help pay for the Civil War, President Lincoln legislates the nation’s first income tax.
|Income level (1862 dollars)||Income level (2019 dollars)||Tax Rate|
1913 – 16th Amendment
As World War I looms the 16th amendment is ratified, allowing for taxation without allocation according to state populations. An income tax is permanently introduced for both individuals and corporations, and the first Form 1040 is created.
|Income Level (1913 dollars)||Income level (2019 dollars)||Tax Rate|
1918 – The Revenue Act
Tax rates skyrocket to pay for World War I efforts. The top tax rate is 77%.
1935 – Social Security Act
In light of the Great Depression, the Social Security Act introduces:
- An old-age pension program
- Unemployment insurance
- Funding for health and welfare programs
To fund the programs, a 2% tax is shared equally by an employee and their employer.
1942 – The Revenue Act
Described by President Roosevelt as “the greatest tax bill in American history”, the Act increases taxes and the numbers of citizens subject to income tax. Total personal and corporate income tax revenue more than doubles:
|Year||Revenue||2019 dollar equivalent|
|1941||$3.4 billion||$59.2 billion|
|1942||$8.0 billion||$123.8 billion|
1943 – Current Tax Payment Act
It becomes mandatory for employers to withhold taxes from employees’ wages and remit them four times per year.
Modern Times: 1961 to 2018
1961 – Beginning of The Computer Age
The National Computer Center at Martinsburg, West Virginia is formally dedicated to assisting the IRS in its shift to computer data processing.
1986 – Tax Reform Act
The Tax Reform Act:
- Lowers the top individual tax rate from 50% to 28%
- Increases taxes on capital gains from 20% to 28%
- Reduces corporate tax breaks
The revisions are designed to make the tax code simpler and fairer.
1992 – Electronic Filing
Taxpayers who owe money are given the option to file electronically.
2001 – Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act
President George W. Bush implements large tax cuts:
- Creates a new lowest individual tax rate of 10%
- Reduces the top individual tax rate from 39.6% to 35%
- Doubles child tax credit from $500 to $1,000* (*From $700 to $1,400 in 2019 dollars)
2017 – Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
President Trump signs off on reductions in tax rates, while some deductions are made more restrictive.
For example, State and Local Taxes (SALT) deductions are capped at $10,000. Residents in high-tax states such as New York, New Jersey, California and Connecticut could see substantially higher tax bills.
U.S. taxation policy remains a contentious issue and shifts depending on who is in the White House.
Investors need to stay informed on current legislation, so they can engage in proactive financial planning and minimize their tax obligations.
Mapping the Spread of Words Along Trade Routes
When goods traveled to new regions, their native names sometimes hitchhiked along with them. This map shows the spread of loanwords around the world.
Mapping the Spread of Words Along Trade Routes
In the early history of international trade, when exotic goods traveled to new regions, their native names sometimes hitchhiked along with them.
Naturally, the Germans have a term – Wanderwörter – for these extraordinary loanwords that journey around the globe, mutating subtly along the way.
Today’s map, produced by Haisam Hussein for Lapham’s Quarterly, charts the flow of Wanderwörter along global trade routes.
China’s export dominance over tea influenced how people around the world refer to their steeped beverages.
The spread of tea along the Silk Road from Mandarin-speaking Northern China resulted in much of Asia and Africa having similar sounding words for tea. Chá evolved into the chai widely consumed in India and surrounding areas today.
Tea’s other major trade route, through Min-speaking Southern China, spread the pronunciation that became the standard around Europe. This is why we see such striking similarities between thé (French), thee (Dutch), tee (German), té (Spanish), and tè (Italian).
Sometimes, a word’s journey isn’t completely linear.
In the case of tomatoes, the Italians’ decision to dub the red fruit pomodoro, or golden apple, led to a linguistic fork in the road. This is the reason the English name for tomatoes is still similar to the Aztec term tomatl, but in Russian, pomidor can be traced back to Italian.
Many people in North America would be surprised to learn that “cotton” is a direct link to the Arabic word al-qutn.
When the Spanish brought coca from South America and spread it into the global market, its easy-to-pronounce name tagged along for the entire journey. Though its spelling may differ across cultures, say the word “coca” in many countries and people will likely know what you’re referring to.
A Small World After All
Most of us are vaguely aware that parts of our langauge consist of loanwords from other regions and cultures, but seeing the spread of language in map form is a powerful reminder that the globalization as we know it is a continuation of centuries of commercial and cultural exchange.
Timeline: The 30-Year History of the World Wide Web
This month marked the 30th birthday of the World Wide Web. Here are the events that shaped it over the course of its history.
The World Wide Web is now as old as the typical millennial.
On March 12, the World Wide Web celebrated its 30th birthday. Over the last three decades, we’ve seen it mature from the first webpage to having a ubiquitous presence in our lives.
Visualizing the History of the World Wide Web
Today’s infographic comes to us from the App Institute, and highlights key milestones since the inception of the web. We’ll look at some major developments on this timeline that defined what the web is today.
Tim Berners-Lee Proposes The World Wide Web on March 12, 1989
Although the giant network of computers that formed the Internet – and its “ARPANET” predecessor – already existed, there was no universal way of writing, transmitting, storing, and accessing the Internet in a clean and organized manner.
A computer scientist named Tim Berners-Lee is credited with the first formalized proposal of what he would later call the “World Wide Web”.
A flow chart of Berners-Lee’s vision in 1989. Source: W3
From this vision, his work would go on to develop and influence assets the web still uses today like hypertext (links), webpages, and browsers.
The founder of the World Wide Web is still around, and most recently Berners-Lee has been fighting for his vision of an open and decentralized Internet.
Mosaic was the first browser to popularize “surfing the web”. Launched in 1993, Mosaic’s graphical user interface (GUI) made it easy for the average user to browse multimedia webpages.
The first browser war began when Microsoft launched Internet Explorer in 1995. Unlike Netscape, Internet Explorer was free of charge. Microsoft overtook Netscape with help from their deep pockets and the fact that they held over 90% of the desktop operating system market share.
This would eventually lead to the U.S. government filing an anti-trust case against Microsoft for engaging in anti-competitive practices – but Internet Explorer escaped mostly unaffected, with it’s market share climbing to 96% by 2002.
Today, the second browser war has largely been dominated by Google Chrome, which launched in 2008 and overtook Internet Explorer by 2012.
Web Crawling: Search
Search engines helped popularize the web by making information easily accessible and searchable. Web Crawler was the first search engine that allowed users to search for words and terms on a webpage.
Source: App Institute
Since then, dozens of search engines have launched, but one player has dominated the search market. Today, over 90% of searches online are made through Google.
The Social Internet
In the late 1990s, online diaries and “blogging” websites like Open Diary, LiveJournal and Blogger popularized people sharing their thoughts to an audience online.
This evolved into social networking sites like Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook, which allowed people to “add” their friends and follow their lives online.
Today, of course, Facebook dominates the Social Media Universe with over 2.2 billion users.
The launch of iPhones and Androids in 2007 – 2008 ushered in a new era where people could access the web from their phones. Before this, websites on phones were clunky to use and mostly resembled their desktop counterparts. Third-party apps and websites designed for mobile touchscreens changed the way we browsed the web.
By 2016, mobile phones surpassed desktops and laptops as our favorite way to access the web:
Privacy: You’re the Product Now
With billions of people accessing the web, the trail of data left behind has become extremely profitable for tech giants like Google and Facebook. The data they collect from people’s private information, online behaviors, and demographics allow advertisers to perfectly target consumers.
With ever growing privacy scandals, and even the creation of surveillance states, how people’s privacy and data is handled will likely be the most important issue for the future of the web.
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