The tax code is about 74,000 pages long. We can’t explain it all, but we can tell you how it got there.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”
Tax season is certainly something most of us dread each year, but it wasn’t always that way.
Direct taxation, or what we know as income taxes, hasn’t been very consistent throughout American history.
In fact, for much of the country’s early history, Americans didn’t have income taxes because that’s why we revolted against the British in 1773. At the time, the Constitution barred the federal government from directly taxing its citizens.
For that reason, the government only collected taxes on certain products like liquor and tobacco, according to Forbes.
In the 1790s, a war with France led to a property tax but it wasn’t until the Civil War that Americans were faced with an actual income tax.
The young nation accrued so much debt during the war that Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861. That basically created what we know as the modern tax system and of course, the Internal Revenue Service.
But a lot has changed over the years.
At one point, the Constitution had to be amended because it prevented the government from collecting direct taxes that weren’t based on the proportion of each state’s population. The 16th Amendment, which was passed in 1913, removed that clause.
But after World War I and the New Deal, all this quickly changed.
The New Deal ran up a major deficit and by 1936, the top tax rate was 76 percent.
If you fast-forward to today, we now have an income tax code that’s about 74,000 pages long and we’re still debating tax reform.
It’s still unclear what kind of tax plan President Donald Trump will bring to the table.
During his presidential campaign, Trump proposed several tax plans, both of which were actually tax cuts, rather than a tax reform. A tax cut is exactly what it sounds like, whereas a tax reform restructures the way taxes are collected or managed by the government.
The Tax Policy Center, which is a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, estimated that Trump’s latest proposal would add more than $7 trillion during the course of a decade.
Here’s what the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, had to say about Trump’s plan.
Forbes reports that under the current law, we pay income taxes based on tax brackets that range from 10 percent to 39.6 percent.
Trump’s tax plan called for cutting back the number of tax brackets from seven to three. Those brackets would be as follows: 12 percent, 25 percent, and 33 percent.
The plan would increase the standard deduction for single filers from $6,300 to $15,000. And for those filing joint tax returns, the deduction would increase from $12,600 to $30,000, CNBC reports.
The Brookings Institution, which is a nonprofit public policy organization, notes that forthcoming tax reform will also likely include a provision that will offer incentives for corporations to bring trillions in assets home, rather than leaving them overseas.
While Trump’s ideas about tax reform seem to still be evolving, Howard Gleckman with the Tax Policy Center, told the New York Times, whatever happens, a major tax measure “could be as controversial as the Affordable Care Act.”
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