Taxes During Colonial Times

A US Flag from the 13 Colonies draped over a wooden bench.



When looking at taxes during Colonial Times, it was unusual for the single taxpayer to have much contact with the Federal taxing establishment because the lions share of tax revenues resulted from customs duties, tariffs and excise taxes.

Leading up to the Revolutionary War, the individual colonies generated their own revenues - with their own sets of taxes, and as such, the colonial government didn’t need a lot of revenue.

Colonial Building - Carpenters Hall In The Late 1700s For instance, the northern colonies achieved their revenue goals with excise taxes, taxes on real estate, and taxes based on different types of professions, while import and export taxes were the primary taxes of the southern colonies. The mid-Atlantic colonies imposed property taxes and what were called individual “head taxes” collected for all adult males.

To help fund their wars against France, England made plans to impose numerous taxes on the colonies in America to raise that money. The people in the colonies were required to pay these taxes – even though they were not represented in the British Parliament.

Boston Tea Party in Boston Harbor on Dec 16, 1773


The initial tax, called “The Stamp Act (a tax on any printed paper to be used), was levied by the British Parliament against the colonies in 1765.

The Stamp Act was also followed by a tax on tea (The Tea Act of 1773) and at the end of that year there was a very famous tax revolt that became known as "The Boston Tea Party." Click here to learn more about "The Boston Tea Party"


Of course, paying these taxes without having representation led to the infamous slogan of the Revolutionary War, "Taxation Without Representation Is Tyranny" (which we still hear about today in some form in Washington DC) and established a continual caginess about taxation being part of the American way of life.





NEXT -- "Taxes During The Post Revolutionary Era"
Regarding taxes post revolutionary era, because Americans were fearful of a Federal Government that could be far too strong, in 1781 the Articles of Confederation were implemented, which gave a lot of political power to the States...


Taxation Without Representation - DC Tag




Source: U.S. Department of Treasury



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