Legislators Knew Wages Would Not Be Counted As Income

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Special to the New York Times.

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Aug 2. – Unanimously voting in support of the measure, the House of Representatives of Alabama authorized to-day the amendment to the United States Constitution proposed by Congress several weeks ago….

Quoted above is an excerpt from an article that appeared August 3, 1909, on the front page of the New York Times. A day later, Alabama became the first state to ratify the 16th Amendment, otherwise known as the Income Tax Amendment. The Alabama Legislature rushed the Amendment through “in one of the quickest in the history of the state.” Governor Comer offered to sign the legislation the same day it was approved by the Senate.

The only question asked during the debate in the House was by Rep. Glover who wanted to know if the Income Tax Amendment would affect salaries. “Col. Sam Will John responded that it would not,” reported The New York Times.

The Alabama Legislature, along with everyone else in America at that time, understood that the “income” to be taxed was passive income from investment and business profit. For the most part, the 16th Amendment would affect virtually no one in Alabama as most of the “income” of the country was being realized in New York and the other New England states.

Since the 1850s, The New York Times has been a newspaper of record and other legislators throughout the country would have read “salaries were not income” before voting to pass the 16th Amendment in their state.

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Indirect tax: The Constitution provides Congress with the authority to levy indirect taxes on the purchase of goods and services, privileges and income generated from investments and business profit. Indirect taxes are those that can be avoided or passed on.

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