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On June 16th of 1909, President William Howard Taft sent a message to Congress asking them to create a constitutional amendment that might circumvent the problems created by a court ruling made in 1895 known as the Pollack ruling. Taft's request of Congress was unexpected for many reasons. First, he was a Republican president and the republicans were notoriously against personal income tax and on a personal level, so was Taft. But president Taft wasn't the only republican to act in unexpected ways that year. Nelson Aldrich a republican Senator introduced to Congress what would become the 16th Amendment even though he himself had denounced a similar tax proposal a decade earlier as being too "communistic". Before Aldrich got a hold of the income tax amendment a Senator Norris Brown on June 17th, one day after Taft sent message asking for the amendment, introduced Senate Joint Resolution 39 proposing that Constitution be amended as follows:

The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect direct taxes on incomes without apportionment among the several States according to population

Aldrich and other Senators, however, knew full well that such an amendment could never be passed since it would cause one part of the Constitution to come into irreconcilable conflict with Article I section 2 clause 3 and Article I section 9 clause 4.

Article I section 2 clause 3 states:

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned amongst the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.

Article I section 9 clause 4 states:

No capitation, or other direct tax, shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration hereinbefore directed to be taken.

These Constitutional impositions placed upon Congress power of taxation require that all direct taxes be apportioned amongst the several States according to population, and those who responded to Taft's request were quite clearly viewing an income tax as a direct tax. So also, at least in terms of income earned from real estate, had the Pollock court that had struck down the entire income tax portion of the Revenue Act of 1894. It was the Pollack Courts ruling that Congress was expected to respond to in terms of income taxation and on June 28th of 1909 Senator Aldrich proposed Senate Joint Resolution 40 which did not use the words direct tax and instead read as the Sixteenth Amendment reads today.

The Sixteenth Amendment, authored by Senator Nelson Aldrich, states:

The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on income, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

The Amendment was worded as such to avoid language that made it appear as if the Amendment were trying to alter the Constitution, because as any one who understands basic principles of constitutional law knows, Congress can not alter the Constitution by Amendment, the 17th Amendment not withstanding. It is not entirely clear whether Taft and Aldrich wanted Congress to have the ability to tax income directly without dealing with the obvious headaches that come with apportionment. Certainly Senator Brown wanted Congress to have that ability and reading any of the numerous articles on the internet today it is clear that very many people today believe that the Sixteenth Amendment did exactly that, "authorize" a direct, unapportioned tax.

A brief glance at what various websites are saying should help to illuminate all the confusion in regards to the Sixteenth Amendment. A website known as infoplease says this about the Amendment:

In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution made the income tax a permanent fixture in the U.S. tax system. The amendment gave Congress legal authority to tax income and resulted in a revenue law that taxed incomes of both individuals and corporations.

If it is true what this says then does that mean that Congress did not already have the legal authority to tax income? Infoplease thinks not and prior to making the statement quoted above the site had this to say about early taxation in the U.S.:

In 1862, in order to support the Civil War effort, Congress enacted the nations first income tax law.

So, if the Sixteenth Amendment gave Congress "legal authority" to tax income where did the Congress of 1862 find that legal authority? Infoplease explains it as such:

In 1868, Congress again focused its taxation efforts on tobacco and distilled spirits and eliminated the income tax in 1872. It had a short-lived revival in 1894 and 1895. In the latter year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the income tax was unconstitutional because it was not apportioned among the states in conformity with the Constitution.

What the Pollack Court, the ruling referred to in the above statement, did was strike down as unconstitutional, the entire income portion of the Revenue Act of 1894 and 1895 because it was viewed as a direct tax on income. The court did, however, distinguish its ruling from that if ab earlier Court that affirmed the constitutionality of income taxation during the Civil War. That ruling is known as the Springer Case and this is what the Pollack Court had to say about the Springer ruling:

The (Springer) opinion thus concludes: "Our conclusions are, that direct taxes, within the meaning of the Constitution, are only capitation taxes, as expressed in that instrument, and taxes on real estate; and that the tax of which plaintiff in error complains is within the category of excise or duty"

The Pollock Court continues:

While this language is broad enough to cover the interest as well as the professional earnings, the case would have been more significant as a precedent if the distinction had been brought out in the report and commented on in arriving at judgment, for a tax on professional receipts might be treated as an excise or a duty, and therefore indirect, when the tax on income of personalty might be held to be direct.

Contrary to what infoplease states, the Pollock court did not declare all income tax as unconstitutional but rather disallowed a federal tax on income earned from real property. The Revenue Act struck down however, was designed to be an indirect tax which was why it was not apportioned. It was this fundamental problem of statute communication between Congress and the Courts that led to the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment. Even though the Pollock Court did not declare direct income tax without apportionment unconstitutional far too many informational websites claim that Court did. Here is what provides in its heading; Constitutional Amendments:

The Sixteenth Amendment was the third to overturn a Supreme Court decision. Legalizing the income tax after the court had declared in Pollock v Farmers Loans & Trust Co., that this tax was void, the amendment presented the opportunity both to put government programs on solid footing and redistribute income.

Wikipedia says this about the Pollock ruling:

The Sixteenth Amendment overruled the effect of the Pollock ruling, This essentially means that when imposing an income tax on income from any source without having to apportion the total dollar amount of tax collected from each state according each states population in relation to the total national population. in its section of the United States Constitution quotes Wikipedia as saying this about the Sixteenth Amendment:

Sixteenth Amendment (1913) Authorizes federal income taxes on federal taxes on income.

Wikipedia in an entirely different article, however, makes an entirely different claim. In its article about Brushaber Wikepedia states:

All income taxes enacted after the (Sixteenth) Amendment have been treated as excises (i.e, have been imposed with geographic uniformity, but have not been required to be apportioned.)

Excise taxes are generally viewed as indirect taxes and as such would quite naturally be relieved of the rule of apportionment. The Sixteenth Amendment did not "overrule" the Pollock Court and "authorize" an unapportined direct tax on income. The Brushaber case mentioned earlier makes quite clear the purpose of the Sixteenth Amendment. That Court also makes clear the ruling made by the Pollock Court when Chief Justice White states:

Moreover in addition the conclusion reached in the Pollock Case did not in any degree involve holding that income taxes generically and necessarily came within the class of direct taxes on property, but on the contrary recognized the fact that taxation on income was in its nature an excise entitled to be enforced as such...

But to make it even clearer, Chief Justice White in a different ruling regarding the same issue in Stanton v Baltic Mining Co, said this:

By the previous ruling (Brushaber) it was settled that the Sixteenth Amendment conferred no new power of taxation but simply prohibited the previous complete and plenary power of income taxation possessed by Congress from the very beginning from being taken out of the category of indirect taxation to which it inherently belonged...

The purpose of the Sixteenth Amendment was not to "authorize" a direct tax with apportionment but to prevent future Courts from ever viewing an income tax without apportionment as a direct tax and must be viewed as an indirect tax. Not that anyone will find much agreement on this issue, there is as much confusion about the Brushaber ruling as there is about the Pollock ruling and the Sixteenth Amendment. Wikipedia's article on Brushaber claims that that Court held:

The Sixteenth Amendment removes the requirement that income taxes be apportioned among the states according to population.

But this is not what the Brushaber Court held. It was Mr. Brushaber who believed, like many people then as well as many people believe today, that the Sixteenth Amendment authorized a direct tax on income with out apportionment. The Brushaber Court regarded this contention as erroneous and stated:

But it clearly results that the propositions and the conditions under it, if acceded to, would cause one provision of the Constitution to destroy another; that is, they would result in bringing the provisions of the Amendment exempting a direct tax from apportionment into irreconcilable conflict with the general requirement that all taxes be apportioned . Moreover, the tax authorized by the Amendment, being direct, would not come under the rule of uniformity applicable under the Constitution to other than direct taxes, and thus it would come to pass that the result of the Amendment would be to authorize a particular direct tax not subject either to apportionment or to the rule of geographical uniformity, thus giving power to impose a different tax in State or States than was levied in another State or States. This result instead of simplifying the situation and making clear the limitation on the taxing power, which obviously the Amendment must have intended to accomplish, would create radical and destructive changes in our constitutional system and multiply confusion.

In other words, the Court has said that if the Sixteenth Amendment actually authorized a direct tax without apportionment as Mr. Brushaber believed then and many people believe now, the belief is erroneous because it would cause one provision of the Constitution to destroy another; bringing one part of the Constitution into irreconcilable conflict with the general requirement that all direct taxes be apportioned. The Brushaber Court ruled that the Sixteenth Amendment did not do that. The Brushaber Court never ruled that the Sixteenth Amendment authorized an unapportioned direct tax on income. That court recognized such an Amendment would alter or abolish another section of the Constitution and would necessarily have to be stuck down as unconstitutional. The Sixteenth Amendment was upheld because it does not do what most seem to think it does, it instead, as Chief Justice White puts it:

The contention that the Amendment treats a tax on income as a direct tax although it is relieved of the rule of apportionment and is necessarily therefore not subject to the rule of uniformity as such rule only applies to taxes which are not direct, thus destroying the two great classifications which have been recognized and enforced from the beginning, is wholly with out foundation...

And goes on to say:

Indeed, from another point of view, the Amendment demonstrates that no such purpose was intended and on the contrary shows that it was drawn with the object of maintaining the limitations of the Constitution and harmonizing their operation.

So then, why do so many people believe the Sixteenth Amendment authorized a federal tax on income without apportionment? Why do so many people believe that the Brushaber ruling upheld that belief? Why do so many people believe the income tax is a direct tax on their personal income? Why did Congress really write this Amendment and most importantly, why did William Howard Taft, a man whose personal beliefs indicated a strong distaste for personal income tax, ask Congress to pass this Amendment? The question asked on this page only seems to bring more questions. questions, questions, questions...

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Q: Who was the president who got the income tax amendment 16 through congress?
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Related questions

Which amendment allowed congress to pass an income tax?

16th amendment

Which amendment empowered Congress to levy an income tax?

The 16th amendment was passed in 1913 to establish Congress right to impose a federal income tax.

When was the amendment that gave congress authority to enact an income tax ratified?

The amendment that gave Congress authority to enact an income tax was ratified on February 3, 1913. This amendment, known as the 16th Amendment, allows Congress to levy and collect taxes on income without apportionment among the states.

What amendment gave the congress the right to levy and income tax?

16th amendment

What was the16th amendment?

the 16th amendment allows congress to authorize an income tax.

What amendment gives congress the power to impose an income tax?

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Which amendment gives Congress the power to levy the individual income tax?

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The 16th amendment made a federal income tax legal. This tax soon became a major source of revenue for the federal government. By giving tax breaks to businesses and individuals for certain actions, the federal government can regulate to some degree ,at least, many facets of American life and economic activities.

What amendment gave congress authority to implement a federal income tax?

The sixteenth amendment allows Congress to impose income taxes in their current form.

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Which amendment allows congress to tax personal income?