West Virginia First to Implement Sales Tax

What two things are sure in life? – Death and Taxes. Fortunately death is at least a little way off for most of us. The idea of sales taxation is not a new idea. The sales tax idea was borne in ancient cultures but is only written in history as having started with Greek emperor Augustus in 9 AD and continuing until 60 AD under Nero. It then disappears until about the 12th century when it reappears in Europe. The first formal laws in Europe were passed in 1292 by France of 1/2% to be collected on the sale of all goods except for food.

Modern taxation in the United States was first proposed in 1862 during the so-called Civil War as the Union government struggled with finding a way to pay for what appeared to be a long term and expensive conflict. The proposal was for a 1% National tax. The tax bill was tabled and never acted upon. Then in 1921 a national sales tax of 1% was again proposed to help pay for the debt incurred during World War I. Again this measure was defeated, but not before tokens had already been produced. The tokens were supposedly all destroyed.

In 1921 West Virginia was the first state to pass legislation for a sales tax, effective beginning on July 1 of that year. In 1929 Georgia passed similar legislation but neither took the time to figure out how to enforce or implement the system, so there was no progress.

In 1933 eleven states passed legislation for sales tax and by 1940 over 30 states had enacted legislation and systems for sales tax collection due to the success of the early programs at generating revenue for the state.

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