|Page 4 of the return showing the income tax rates for 1862.|
Public domain form from the Tax History Project.
The first income tax was adopted and signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 as a war measure. This links to the complete income tax package for that year. Forms, instructions, and tax tables brought the entire package to four (!) pages.
There were two basic rates: 3% of those whose incomes were <$10,000 and 5% for incomes >$10,000. Interest from government bonds were taxed at 1.5%. The instructions' explained a standard deduction of $600 by saying that this was the average expenses of a family in 1862.
After years of court rulings and constitutional amendments, this little seedling grew into the monster tax package Americans struggle with today.