Taxation without Representation: Exploring Taxes Then and Now

Tax Blog

Exploring American Taxes: Then & Now

Taxation_wo_Representation Independence Day is just around the corner, and in honor of this patriotic occasion, we thought we’d look at a longstanding mainstay of the American way—taxes. A lot has changed since our forefathers signed that Declaration of Independence, but one thing has remained the same—owing money to the government. We decided to take a look back and see how our taxing ways began, and found some enlightening comparisons between those taxes imposed on our colonial ancestors and the taxes we face today. Even before we were a country, colonists were forced to fork over the change. The Stamp Act was the first internal tax levied on American colonists by the British government, and meant taxes could be issued for any use of paper documents, including everything from playing cards to newspapers. Our stamp taxes today have a bit of a different meaning—the USPS requires postage to properly mail anything through the U.S. Postal Network, playing cards included. Take a peek at The Whiskey Tax, imposed back in 1791. This groundbreaking tax was the first imposed on a domestic product by the newly formed federal government, and it was designed to reduce debt incurred during the Revolutionary War. Things aren’t too different these days, with our beer, wine and spirits tax playing a similar role. This tax is imposed by U.S. State governments on manufacturers of alcoholic beverages, and by today’s estimate, will bring in about $9.5 billion in 2016 alone. The tax surprises don’t end there. Ever ponder about evading your taxes? Turns out colonial citizens did too. Taxes associated with tobacco were avoided by sneaky smugglers who would hide their shipments onboard special ships or in clever storage units. When it came to other taxes, colonists found clever ways to avoid paying all that was owed; since crops were considered a viable tax payment option, wily colonist would send along their worst crops and products to the treasury. Taxes have gone through quite the evolution since the birth of our nation in 1776, but some things remain the same. Take a look at our infographic and find out the ways in which the government took its payment from colonists—you might find some surprising similarities.