Sixteenth Amendment Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution permitting the imposition of an income tax without the need to apportion the tax among the states on the basis of population.

The Supreme Court, in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Co. [case]Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Co.[Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Co.](1895), ruled that the income tax law of 1894 was unconstitutional and void. Because part of the tax applied to money received from the leasing of land, it was a direct tax and therefore needed to be apportioned among the states on the basis of population This decision raised a public outcry because the tax law, which affected only the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, was very popular.Income taxIncome tax

After his inauguration in 1909, President William H. Taft proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn the Court’s ruling.Reversals of Court decisions by amendment The result was the Sixteenth AmendmentSixteenth Amendment, ratified in 1913, which gave Congress the power to impose an income tax without apportioning it. Although the explicit purpose of the amendment was to overturn the Court’s ruling, the Court, in Stanton v. Baltic Mining Co.[case]Stanton v. Baltic Mining Co.[Stanton v. Baltic Mining Co.] (1916), averred that the amendment conferred no new power of taxation but simply prohibited taking the income tax out of the category of indirect taxes, “to which it inherently belonged.”

Income tax

Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Co.

Public opinion re the Court

Reversals of Court decisions by amendment

Taft, William H.

Taxing and spending clause

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