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Taxation and Tyranny - Repealing the 16th Amendment

Updated on April 6, 2014

While the IRS is often the butt of jokes as April 15 approaches, Americans, in increasing numbers aren’t laughing. Instead, they are reviewing the current system of taxation and the role of the Internal Revenue Service. They’re seeking alternative ways to fund a government that won’t include an income tax that seems both oppressive in the amount money it takes from taxpayers and invasive in the power that the IRS has gained in its role as federal tax collector.

Did you know?

Up to 1913 United States government paid its bills:

  • With tariffs, which are taxes imposed on imports and exports
  • And excise taxes, which are taxes built into certain items.

A flat tax of 3% was established during the civil war and then ended in 1866, just a year after the civil war ended.

In 1894 the Supreme Court ruled that the Income Tax Act was unconstitutional.

People are often surprised that the income tax has not always been part of the nation’s tax process. Until 1913, the United States government paid its bill with tariffs, which are taxes imposed on imports and exports, and excise taxes, which are taxes built into certain items. But the incomes of the citizens were not taxed. The income tax was first proposed in 1812, but not put into practice. When the Civil War began, the federal government introduced the Revenue Act of 1861, which established a flat tax of three percent on yearly incomes of more than $800. The Civil War ended in 1865, and the Revenue Act ended in 1866. When Congress returned to the idea of an income tax with a proposal to assess a two percent income tax on annual incomes of more than $4000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Income Tax Act of 1894 was unconstitutional. So far, so good, right?

Congressman Jim Bridenstone of Oklahoma
Congressman Jim Bridenstone of Oklahoma

As you've already guessed, it didn't end there. The 16th Amendment, which grants Congress the power to collect taxes on income, was ratified in 1913. This is the beginning of what we not-so-fondly recognize as the federal income tax. Resistance to the income tax, a cumbersome tax code, and the Internal Revenue Service has grown since that time, and in 2013, Congressman Jim Bridenstone of Oklahoma introduced a bill to repeal the 16th Amendment. As reasons for his action, Bridenstone cited the 4th Amendment of the Constitution, which protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures. According to Bridenstone, the 16th Amendment has been overruling the 4th Amendment, which is part of the Bill of Rights, and violating the Constitution.

Bridenstone is not alone in his quest to repeal the 16th amendment. Various groups such as the Americans for Limited Government, Americans for Fair Taxation, Tea Party Patriots, Competitive Governance Action, and Free Market America make up the Coalition to Repeal the 16th Amendment, also known as Repeal 16. Their goal is to restrict Congress and its power to impose taxation on income, payroll, dividends and estates; in other words, taxes on production. Their advocacy does not support either a fair tax or a flat tax; they simply want to get rid of the 16th Amendment. If the states would ratify the resolution to repeal the 16th Amendment, the federal government would have two years to find an alternative means of raising revenue.


Some of Repeal 16's motivation comes not merely from the current tax system, but also from the need to reform the excesses which the tax system supports. Their view is that the income tax forms which Americans submit, surrender too much personal information to the Internal Revenue Service. These concerns have been heightened by the concentrated power of the IRS, which has used its access to tax documents to unfairly scrutinize certain political organizations.

IRS gaining more power with the new Healthcare Tax

Repeal 16 supporters have much in common with advocates of the Article V Convention, but the latter movement has a broader aim as it works to revitalize the role of the states in balancing the power of the federal government. Repeal 16 intends to have the repeal of the 16th Amendment take center stage in the 2014 Congressional primaries.

In order to bring up the passage of a bill that repeals the 16th Amendment, Repeal 16 will

  • Round up support by contacting legislators, rallying supporters, and taking part in town hall meetings

  • Require Congress to agree to co-sponsor the Repeal the 16th Amendment Bill

  • Seek the 16th Amendment's appeal via an Article V Convention of the States

  • Identify incumbents who do not support the repeal movement and marshal support for other candidates in the upcoming elections

A.F. Branco
A.F. Branco | Source


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    • dragonflyfla profile image

      dragonflyfla 3 years ago from South Florida

      Thanks for your comment wba108 - the fair tax addresses these issues, plus we would save money that could be applied to our faux debts by eliminating the cost of running this very large bureaucracy.

    • profile image 3 years ago from upstate, NY

      The IRS is the number one factor that is fueling the growth of government and the shrinking of our freedoms. I'm all for repealing the 16th amendment but it would require time to pay down our debts first. Maybe a flat tax would be a good intermediate step to eliminate the need for the IRS and reduce the power of special interests that our current tax system feeds.

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 3 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      I've been following several amendment proposals and writing about the process for Constitutional change. I've also written about Repealing the 17th, or other ways to undo the partisan representation body that the Senate has become. It is clear that Senators no longer need represent for their States, and that the Supreme Court has upheld that.

      But, in effect, that is the change we have voted for, twice now.

    • dragonflyfla profile image

      dragonflyfla 3 years ago from South Florida

      FitnezzJim - There are those working for an Article V Convention of States which I believe would work better than a petition to the WH. If I remember correctly it seems they the WH will look at it if it reaches a certain amount of signatures, but they don't have to respond to it.

      Have you read about the Convention of States?

    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 3 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      If we really want a State Constitutional Convention to be called, why not create a petition for that at

      There have been a lot of articles that have been written in the past few short years about changing the Constitution. They include a number of fairly popular proposals for change: including repealing the 16th and 17th amendments and creating amendments requiring that laws apply equally to Congress and to the people.

      Clearly, a petition can not ask that the President call the convention (he does not have that power or authority), but the petition can ask that he call on the States to put forward that request to Congress, who must (under Amendment 5) call for a convention of the States to propose Amendments if enough States have requested that. A petition to can also ask that he call on the House and Senate to initiate specific proposed amendments to the Constitution.

      In these days when our government proclaims transparency and openness, why not try to use the tools they have put in place?

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 3 years ago

      I would be willing to pay more taxes if they would quit wasting and stealing our hard earned dollars.

    • dragonflyfla profile image

      dragonflyfla 3 years ago from South Florida

      mts1098 - Especially when it is manipulated by the politicians and lobbyist for their own gain. I don't mind paying sales tax and I don't think I would mind a fair tax.

    • profile image

      mts1098 3 years ago

      A very interesting article...taxation has to be once of the most hated things about living in America...cheers

    • dragonflyfla profile image

      dragonflyfla 3 years ago from South Florida

      Hi Old Poolman,

      Yes, I saw that too about the congressman from Virginia who believes they aren't being paid enough! Is he out of touch or what? I hope his constituent vote him out the time around.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 3 years ago

      Outstanding hub on one of Americas largest problems.

      As fewer and fewer pay into the system every year, the government is forced to find ways to take more from those who still pay taxes. Most of us are aware the government would prefer a tax rate of 100% that they would in turn spread equally across the entire population, and steal and waste as they see fit.

      The time to replace our current tax system with something much more fair has long passed. Perhaps if the government had less money to spend they would spend it more wisely?

      I just saw an article stating that some of our elected representative feel they need a raise. It is becoming difficult for them to survive on $174,ooo per year, plus benefits, and perks we could only dream of. I believe they have the lowest approval rating in the history of this country, yet they want a pay increase?

      Wow, is this country broken or what?

      There are tax preparation companies such as H&R Block paying lobbyists huge sums of money to insure the tax system is never changed. They and many others would be out of a job if we changed the system. But, I don't believe they have anything to worry about because changing this unfair system will take many more years.

      Thanks for sharing with us.