The Taxman Cometh…and He Leaveth Records!

IRS Tax Lists Kelly.bmpI just noticed that Ancestry has posted U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 and I spent a little time tonight playing around with it. This is a record I found of my Kelly ancestors. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Here is more information from the database description:

On July 1, 1862, Congress passed the Internal Revenue Act, creating the Bureau of Internal Revenue (later renamed to the Internal Revenue Service). This act was intended to “provide Internal Revenue to support the Government and to pay interest on the Public Debt.” Instituted in the height of the Civil War, the “Public Debt” at the time primarily consisted of war expenses.

The Internal Revenue Act also established the Office of Commissioner of Internal Revenue and allowed the country to be divided into collection districts, of which assessors and collectors were appointed.

Taxable goods and services were determined by legislative acts passed throughout the years. All persons, partnerships, firms, associations, and corporations submitted to the assistant assessor of their division, a list showing the amount of annual income, articles subject special taxes and duties, and the quantity of goods made or sold that were charged with taxes or duties. The assistant assessors collected and compiled these lists into two general lists. These lists were:

  1. A list of names of all individuals residing in the division who were subject to taxation
  2. A list of names of all individuals residing outside the division, but who were owners of property in the division

These lists were organized alphabetically according to surname and recorded the value, assessment, or enumeration of taxable income or items and the amount of tax due. After all examinations and appeals, copies of these lists were given to the collector who then went and collected the taxes.

The assessment lists are divided into three categories:

  1. Annual
  2. Monthly
  3. Special

Annual and monthly lists are for taxes assessed or collected within those periods of time. Special lists supplemented incomplete annual and monthly lists and also included any taxes that were indicated as “special” by the assessors.

About the Records

Form 23, Assessment List, was the form used for many years to record tax information. Although there are several different versions of this form, it generally recorded:

  • Name of Collection District
  • Name of Collector
  • Date of the list
  • Instructions for completing the form
  • Name of person or business being taxed
  • Address
  • Taxable period
  • Amount reported by the collector
  • Remarks on the assessment
  • Article or occupation taxed
    Record of payment if the tax was paid
  • Amount paid or abated

Form 58, List of Unassessable Collections, recorded the receipt and disbursement of unassessed collections. Unassessed collections could include: conscience money, paid court order fines, and offers of compromise, among others.

Click here to access the U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918.

8 thoughts on “The Taxman Cometh…and He Leaveth Records!

  1. Database id or database name specified incorrectly or the database is no longer valid

    Maybe I tried too early to access this? Hope the link is fixed soon. Should be a great way to find that special someone.


  2. I tried this database – seems hard to use though, and I certainly did not come across any with household members listed as in your example! Many of the names I tried came up with only a district # for location rather than a town or city so I’m not sure how to use this information yet.

    Potential resource, will try again with it sometime. Thanks for telling us it’s now available.

  3. Not useful so far. I type in a surname beginnning with B and it takes me to records beginning with K. Also appears to cover only a few states.

  4. Lack of more precise location data (beyond states) is a problem. Looking at every record very time consuming. On the other hand, an unusual name can hit pay dirt quickly. I put in “Gambs” and got only 9 hits one of whom was an ancestor of mine.

  5. My experience differs from the above comments.
    I found the database response to be prompt and easy to use.
    Furthermore, most records had the name of the state in the header with a separate column for residence. The residence column usually gave the county but sometimes an actual street address.
    In general, I found this database very useful except for the fact that the transcriptions were done hastily – sometimes the spelling of the name was incorrect and sometimes names were omitted, even when listed just underneath the indexed name.
    I wonder why some states are not included, such as Ohio and Wisconsin. Is the data lacking or will it be transcribed later?

  6. Hi all,
    I’ve been playing around with this database and will be writing about it in next week’s newsletter.
    I’ll have more info for you then.

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