Monday, September 18, 2017

History of income tax again

Who says anniversaries don't matter?  The centenary of the introduction of federal income tax in Canada seems to be disproving that. Today Active History launches a five-part series on income tax history with a lively piece by David Tough arguing, more or less, that everything you know about income tax is wrong.
It wasn’t a temporary tax, and no, it wasn’t introduced to pay for the First World War...
More to the point, income taxation wasn’t brought in by an overzealous government using the war as a pretext for a money grab.
Tough's book on the subject is promised for 2018. This year we already have E.A Heaman's Tax, Order and Good Government, on pre-income tax public revenues in Canada, and Shirley Tillotson's Give and Takeon income tax 1917-1967. All three scholars insist on a fundamentally political analysis of income (and other) taxes.  Tough emphasizes the farmer and labour insistance on "conscripting wealth" through income tax, and Tillotson considers the two-way relationship that developed between taxation and representation.

Both the history of taxation and the political history of the country look to being usefully reshaped by this scholarly flurry of responses to the anniversary.
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