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                 April, 2009

      Charles Hansen, Editor

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  Taxes, Taxes, Taxes
  — by Charles Hansen

        April is the end of the tax season, and as an Enrolled Agent 1, I prepare many taxes for others, but income tax records I thought, were always private records and could not be accessed by others. Genealogists have always been able to access other types of tax records, county land taxes, poll taxes, personal property taxes, etc. So when Ancestry announced they had put income tax records online I was wondering where and how they got those records

        The National Archives holds records of the Internal Revenue Service back to 1791, in record group 58, most of which have not been microfilmed. The Family History library in Salt Lake has some income tax records for New York and New Jersey 1862-1866. Ancestry has tax records from the Civil War in it's collection: U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918.

        The first income tax only applied to people making over $600 a year, and then only 3% over $600 and 5% over $10,000 a year. Later on the rates went to 5% over $600 and 10% over $10,000.

        So what can you find on this list? Name, Post office address, and occupation. An early post office address is hard to find so using this tax list will help you locate an ancestor that may have been missing.

        Well, so much for keeping income tax records private, but maybe they are pretty sure everyone that paid an income tax from 1862-1918 are deceased, and I guess that is probably true. Can you imagine genealogists 100 years from now looking through your income tax records? Will they be able to access the electronically filed returns? If so, what will they be able to learn about you?

1 Note:  The name, Enrolled Agent, was first used just after the Civil War, where Enrolled Agents helped the veterans, or the families of the veterans fill in the forms necessary for the veteran or his family to collect benefits after the war was over.

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