From colonial times to the present day, debate over tax policy — and how to reform it — has been a fixture in American politics. The tax system has changed radically since the founding of the republic, paralleling the development of the American economy and the ever-growing role of the federal government. Taxation has evolved from a system dominated by tariffs and excise taxes in the 19th century to today’s income-tax-based system.
Now, in the first decade of the 21st century, many people are suggesting that the tax system needs more changes. However, previous attempts at reform have succeeded only rarely, often because of strong opposition from entrenched interests and powerful constituencies.