An Army of Officials: The Civil War Bureau of Internal Revenue
Joseph J. Thorndike
Tax Analysts; Northwestern University School of Law; University of Virginia - College of Arts and Sciences
Tax Notes, Vol. 93, No. 13, December 24, 2001
This article provides a brief history and analysis of the Civil War income tax, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue (the forebear of today's IRS). While the income tax played an important role in the Union revenue system, it also sparked deep and sometimes passionate opposition. The BIR took the brunt of this unhappiness, with critics attacking its army of officials for their heavy-handed enforcement techniques. Ultimately, these complaints helped scuttle the income tax, as opponents successfully argued that it was unfair in theory and inquisitorial in operation. Congress allowed the tax to lapse in 1872, demonstrating the political difficulties facing a large-scale federal tax agency, especially one charged with collecting an income tax.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 22
JEL Classification: H20Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: December 21, 2001 ; Last revised: October 12, 2008
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