Lady Godiva took her taxing ride

Print Article

Itís time to pay the piper.

As I begrudgingly wrote that Treasury check, I had to admit things could be worse.

In ancient Egypt, tax ďmastersĒ taxed slaves, as if being a slave wasnít taxing enough. Ancient Romans had such a high tax burden, it brought down their empire.

England has the most beguiling tax story. In the 11th century, Lady Godiva is said to have successfully protested her husbandís (the Earl of Mercia) burdensome tax upon his subjects by riding naked on a white horse through Coventry. Beats tea in the harbor.

Across the water, the roots of the IRS date back to President Lincoln. To pay for the Civil War, he created the position of commissioner of internal revenue, and Congress enacted an income tax in 1861. Ten years later, it was repealed. In 1894 Congress tried to revive it with a flat-rate tax, but the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

The Sixteenth Amendment had the final say. In 1913 the amendmentís final ratification (by Wyoming) ensured Congress could, and thus did, enact the income tax.

The first rates in 1913 were 1 to 7 percent.

In 1918, the top rate rose to 77 percent to finance World War I (low compared to World War IIís top rate of 94 percent). By 1929 the ceiling was down to 24 percent, but rose again to 63 percent during the Great Depression.

Since the 1980s, the top rate has hovered in the 30s, historically low compared to most of the last century. Currently the highest rate is 39.6 percent, although the average taxpayer pays roughly a third to half of that rate.

While it hurts to see the cash outflow, it helps to remember what taxes pay for. Parks, roads and schools. Emergency services, defense (a lot more of it, given this weekís headlines), and law enforcement. Social Security, Medicare and low-income assistance.

In other words, most of our taxes pay for us.

ďLike mothers, taxes are often misunderstood, but seldom forgotten.Ē ó English jurist Lord Bramwell

ēēē

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com.

Print Article

Read More Sholeh Patrick

Have you hugged a doc today?

March 30, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Itís painful even to imagine what a patientís experience of surgery must have been like before anesthesia. We take for granted the transformations of medicine, from the first documented use of genera...

Comments

Read More

Clarifying the court conundrum

March 28, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press With all this ink about cases and courts, readers have expressed understandable confusion. Courts referred to by state names; circuit, district, and magistrate courts; terms can be dizzying. Why, ask...

Comments

Read More

Them? No, there is only us

March 23, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press I had the good fortune to be born into diversity: Of religion, ethnicity, nationality, and of thought. I was raised bilingual from the time I learned my first words. I was taught two religions (and p...

Comments

Read More

Basics of bail ó and justice

March 21, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Sometimes law and the appearance of justice feel like two different things, perhaps even diametrically opposed. Those working within the justice system occasionally feel that way, so itís understanda...

Comments

Read More

X