A History of Revolution in U.S. Taxation
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”
While this quote was penned in 1789, his words still ring true today. U.S. taxation has changed over time, but it has always existed in some shape or form for over 250 years.
U.S. Taxation: 1765 to Today
In today’s infographic from New York Life Investments, we explore the history of U.S. taxation – from its colonial roots to its recent reform.
The modern American tax code has little resemblance to its early iterations.
Over the last few centuries, Americans have battled against British taxation, faced sky-high tax rates to fund war efforts, and enjoyed tax cuts designed to boost economic growth.
A Timeline of U.S. Taxation
Today, total U.S. tax revenue exceeds $3.4 trillion. Below are some notable events that have shaped modern American taxation.
Colonial Roots: 1765 to 1783
1765 – Stamp Act
In its first direct tax on the colonists, Britain places a tax on all paper – including ship’s papers, court documents, advertisements, and even playing cards.
1767 – Townshend Revenue Act
Importation duties are placed on British products such as glass, paint, and tea. The taxes are expected to raise £40,000 annually, (£6,500,000 in 2018 GBP). As hostilities continue to bubble up, colonists argue for “No taxation without representation”. Although taxes are imposed on the colonists, they aren’t able to elect representatives to British parliament.
1770 – The Boston Massacre
British troops occupy Boston to end the boycott on British goods. The March 5th Boston Massacre sees five colonists killed. By April, all Townshend duties are repealed except for the one on tea.
1773 – The Tea Act (May 10)
Britain grants the struggling British East India Company a monopoly on tea in America. While no new taxes are imposed, this angers colonists as it is seen as a thinly veiled plan to gain colonial support for the Townshend tax while threatening local business.
1773 – The Boston Tea Party (December 16)
Three ships arrive in Boston carrying British East India Company tea. Colonists refuse to allow the unloading of the tea, throwing all 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbour.
1775-1783 – The American Revolutionary War
Growing tensions between Britain and the colonists erupt in a full-scale war. After eight long years, Britain officially recognizes the independence of the United States.
A Free Nation: 1787 to 1943
1787 – The U.S. Constitution
Congress gains the “power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises.” The government primarily earns revenue from excise taxes and tariffs, including an “importation tax” on slaves.
1791-1794 – Whiskey Rebellion
Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Secretary of Treasury, leads the implementation of a whiskey excise tax. In 1794, whiskey rebels destroy a tax inspector’s home. President Washington sends in troops and quells the rebellion.
1862 – The Nation’s First Income Tax
To help pay for the Civil War, President Lincoln legislates the nation’s first income tax.
|Income level (1862 dollars)||Income level (2019 dollars)||Tax Rate|
1913 – 16th Amendment
As World War I looms the 16th amendment is ratified, allowing for taxation without allocation according to state populations. An income tax is permanently introduced for both individuals and corporations, and the first Form 1040 is created.
|Income Level (1913 dollars)||Income level (2019 dollars)||Tax Rate|
1918 – The Revenue Act
Tax rates skyrocket to pay for World War I efforts. The top tax rate is 77%.
1935 – Social Security Act
In light of the Great Depression, the Social Security Act introduces:
- An old-age pension program
- Unemployment insurance
- Funding for health and welfare programs
To fund the programs, a 2% tax is shared equally by an employee and their employer.
1942 – The Revenue Act
Described by President Roosevelt as “the greatest tax bill in American history”, the Act increases taxes and the numbers of citizens subject to income tax. Total personal and corporate income tax revenue more than doubles:
|Year||Revenue||2019 dollar equivalent|
|1941||$3.4 billion||$59.2 billion|
|1942||$8.0 billion||$123.8 billion|
1943 – Current Tax Payment Act
It becomes mandatory for employers to withhold taxes from employees’ wages and remit them four times per year.
Modern Times: 1961 to 2018
1961 – Beginning of The Computer Age
The National Computer Center at Martinsburg, West Virginia is formally dedicated to assisting the IRS in its shift to computer data processing.
1986 – Tax Reform Act
The Tax Reform Act:
- Lowers the top individual tax rate from 50% to 28%
- Increases taxes on capital gains from 20% to 28%
- Reduces corporate tax breaks
The revisions are designed to make the tax code simpler and fairer.
1992 – Electronic Filing
Taxpayers who owe money are given the option to file electronically.
2001 – Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act
President George W. Bush implements large tax cuts:
- Creates a new lowest individual tax rate of 10%
- Reduces the top individual tax rate from 39.6% to 35%
- Doubles child tax credit from $500 to $1,000* (*From $700 to $1,400 in 2019 dollars)
2017 – Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
President Trump signs off on reductions in tax rates, while some deductions are made more restrictive.
For example, State and Local Taxes (SALT) deductions are capped at $10,000. Residents in high-tax states such as New York, New Jersey, California and Connecticut could see substantially higher tax bills.
U.S. taxation policy remains a contentious issue and shifts depending on who is in the White House.
Investors need to stay informed on current legislation, so they can engage in proactive financial planning and minimize their tax obligations.
Visual Guide: The Three Types of Economic Indicators
From GDP to interest rates, this infographic shows key economic indicators for navigating the massive U.S. economy.
View the high resolution version of this infographic. Buy the poster.
A Visual Guide to Economic Indicators
Economic indicators provide insight on the state of financial markets.
Each type of indicator offers data and economic measurements, helping us better understand their relationship to the business cycle. As investors navigate the market environment, it’s important to differentiate between the three main types of indicators:
The above infographic from New York Life Investments shows a road map of indicators and what they can tell us about the economy.
What’s Ahead: Leading Indicators
Leading indicators present economic data that point to the future direction of the economy like a sign up ahead. Here are three examples.
1. Consumer Confidence Index
This key measure indicates consumer spending and saving plans. When the index is above 100, consumers may spend more over the next year. In December, the index jumped to 108 up from 101 in November. This was in part due to lower inflation expectations and improving job prospects.
In the December survey, 48% indicated that the job market remained strong, highlighting the strength of employment opportunities and likely influencing sentiment towards spending in the future.
2. ISM Purchasing Managers Index
The ISM Purchasing Managers Index indicates expectations of new orders, costs, employment, and U.S. economic activity in the manufacturing sector. The following table shows how the index is broken down based on select measures:
|Index||Nov 2022||Oct 2022||Percentage|
For instance, in November the index fell into its first month of contraction since May 2020. Falling new orders signal that demand has weakened while contracting employment figures indicate lower output across the sector.
3. S&P 500 Index
The S&P 500 Index indicates the economy’s direction since forward-looking performance is factored into prices. In this way, the S&P 500 Index can represent investor confidence as the index often serves as a proxy for U.S. equity markets. In 2022, returns for the index are roughly -20% year-to-date.
Current Conditions: Coincident Indicators
Coincident indicators reflect the current state of the economy, showing whether it is in a state of growth or contraction.
GDP indicates overall economic performance. Typically it serves as the most comprehensive gauge of the economy since it tracks output across all sectors. In the third quarter of 2022, real U.S. GDP increased 2.9% on an annual basis. That compares to 2.7% for the same period in 2021.
2. Personal Income
Rising incomes indicate a healthier economy and falling incomes signal slower growth. Personal income grew at record levels in 2021 to 7.4% annually amid a rapid economic expansion.
This year, U.S. personal income has grown at a slower pace, at 2.7% on an annual basis as of the third quarter.
3. Industrial Production Index
Strongly correlated to GDP, the industrial production index indicates manufacturing, utilities, and mining output. Below, we show trends in industrial production and how they correspond with GDP and personal income indicators.
*As of Q3 2022.
As the above table shows, factory production collapsed following the 2008 financial crisis, a key indicator for the depth of an economic downturn. Meanwhile, personal income sank over -3% while GDP fell -2%.
Despite economic uncertainty in 2022, industrial production remains positive, at a 4.7% growth rate, albeit somewhat slower than 2021 levels.
Rearview Mirror: Lagging Indicators
Like checking your back mirror, lagging indicators take place after a key economic event, often confirming what has taken place in the economy. Here are three key examples.
1. Interest Rates
Often, interest rates respond to changes in inflation. When rates rise it can slow economic growth and discourage borrowing. Rising interest rates typically signal a strong economy and are used to tame inflation. On the other hand, low interest rates promote economic growth.
Following years of record-low interest rates, the Federal Funds rate increased at the fastest rate in decades over 2022, jumping from 0.25% in March to 4.25% in December as inflation accelerated.
2. Consumer Price Index
This inflation measure can indicate cash flow for households. Inflation is often the result of rising input costs and increasing money supply across the economy.
Sometimes, inflation can reach a peak after an expansion has ended as rising demand in an economy has pushed up prices. In November, U.S. inflation reached 7.1% annually amid supply chain disruptions and price pressures across food prices, medical prices, and housing costs.
|Year||Inflation Rate||Annual Change|
*As of November 2022.
3. Unemployment Rate
The unemployment rate has many spillover effects, impacting consumer spending and in turn retail sales and GDP. Historically, unemployment falls slowly after an economic recovery which is why it’s considered a lagging indicator. When the unemployment rate rises it confirms lagging economic performance.
Overall, 2022 has been characterized by a strong job market, with unemployment levels below historical averages, at 3.7% as of October.
On the Road
To get a more comprehensive picture of the economy, combining a number of indicators is more effective than isolating a few variables. With these tools, investors can gain more perspective on the cyclical nature of the business cycle while keeping a long-term perspective in mind on the road ahead.
Europe’s Energy Crisis and the Global Economy
Europe’s energy crisis could last well into 2023. Here’s how the energy shock is causing ripple effects across the broader economy.
This infographic is available as a poster.
Europe’s Energy Crisis and the Global Economy
Volatile energy prices are squeezing household costs and business productivity in Europe.
While energy prices have fallen in recent months, several factors could influence price volatility looking ahead:
- Russia slashing energy supplies
- Rising winter heating demand
- Shrinking European storage facilities
In the above infographic from New York Life Investments, we show the potential impacts of Europe’s energy crisis on consumers, businesses, and the wider global economy.
1. Impact on Consumers
Energy plays a central role in overall inflation. Here’s how it factors into the consumption baskets of various countries:
|Total Inflation Rate|
|Energy||Food||All Items Less Food
Source: OECD (Oct 2022). Annual inflation is measured by the Consumer Price Index.
As the above table shows, energy makes up nearly half of consumer price inflation in Germany. In the U.S., it contributes to about one-fifth of overall inflation.
Amid energy supply disruptions, U.S. winter heating costs are projected to rise to the highest level in a decade. As heating costs rise, it could impact consumer spending on discretionary items across the economy, along with other essential household bills.
2. Impact on Business
Natural gas and petroleum are key components in many industries’ energy consumption. As a result, the recent rise in energy prices is adding significant cost pressures to operations.
Below, we show how four primary sectors use energy, by source:
|U.S. Sector||Petroleum||Natural Gas||Renewables||Coal||Electricity|
Source: EIA (Apr 2022). Figures represent end-use sector energy consumption in 2021.
In Europe, soaring energy prices have led to production declines in energy-sensitive industries over recent months. As a ripple effect, European fertilizer production capacity has decreased as much as 70%, crude steel capacity has fallen 10%, and aluminum and zinc production capacity has sunk 50%.
In response, some companies may move production out of Europe to regions with lower energy prices. This occurred in 2010-2014 amid high European energy prices, where companies relocated to the U.S., the Middle East, and North Africa.
3. Impact on the Economy
While the energy crisis is having devastating effects on many countries, some markets like the U.S. are more sheltered from the impact. As seen in the table below, the U.S. produces virtually all of its natural gas. Figures are shown in trillion cubic feet.
|Year||U.S. Natural Gas|
|U.S. Natural Gas|
Source: EIA (Sep 2022).
By contrast, Europe imports 80% of its natural gas, primarily from Russia, North Africa, and Norway. Not only that, natural gas imports have increased over the last decade, up from 65% of total supplies in 2010.
Meanwhile, the energy sector is seeing strong returns supported by higher oil and natural gas prices, along with key fuel shortages as Russia constricts supplies to Europe. In November the S&P 500 Energy Index was up 65% year-to-date compared to the broader index, with -17% returns.
Europe’s Energy Crisis: Looking Ahead
Given the complex geopolitical environment, Europe’s energy crisis could last well into 2023, driven by many factors:
- Rising demand from China post-COVID-19 lockdowns
- Lower European fuel reserves
- Inadequate energy infrastructure in the medium-term
The good news is that European government relief has reached €674 billion ($690 billion) to cushion the effect on households and businesses.
However, this has additional challenges as increasing money supply may be an inflationary force.
Amid market volatility, investors can avoid getting caught up in short-term market movements and stay focused on their long-term strategic allocation.
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