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The Whys of Taxes

Theme 1: Your Role as a TaxpayerLesson 2: How Taxes Evolve


Photo of the U.S. Constitution. Photo credit National Archives.
Taxes have been a part of American history since our earliest days. In fact, taxes are one of the reasons the colonists fought for independence from Great Britain in the first place. When our Constitution was being written, the authors knew that our young country would need taxes for items such as roads and defense. They put provisions in the Constitution that spelled out exactly how the formal tax legislation process would work. A proposed tax law, called a bill, follows specific steps through both houses of Congress.

The informal tax legislation process is the way you as a citizen can affect legislation by making your views known to legislators. You can take part in the informal tax legislation process by joining lobbying groups, attending town meetings, circulating and signing petitions, and voting for candidates sympathetic to your views. You can also write, call, or e-mail members of Congress.


quick check
How does the formal tax legislation process differ from the informal tax legislation process?

tax trivia
Did You Know?
Photo of the Duck Stamp. Photo credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Duck Stamp Act is a direct tax that applies to people over the age of 16 who want to hunt waterfowl. It came about because a group of sportsmen and conservationists lobbied for a program to protect migratory waterfowl and wetlands-the informal tax legislation process at work!

Test your tax trivia knowledge by answering the following multiple-choice question. To assess your answer, click the Check My Answers button at the bottom of the page.
Since its inception in 1934, the Duck Stamp has become a popular collector's item. (It is an actual stamp!) A person who bought each stamp the year it was issued would have paid around $400 for the stamps by the year 2000. How much do you think those stamps would be worth today?
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