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By Eleanorgreen29
On July 10, 2019

Lesson Plan: 16th Amendment and Income Taxes

Income Taxes and the 16th Amendment

Ian Millhiser and Ilya Shapiro talked about the creation of the 16th amendment and the history of the income tax.


The 16th Amendment, passed by Congress in 1909 and ratified in 1913 during the Progressive Era, established a federal income tax. In this lesson, students will briefly review the history of the 16th Amendment, opinions and proposals to change the income tax, and related issues.


  • Step 1: Introduction

    Direct students to open the Note-Taking Chart: 16th Amendment and the Income Tax and watch the first two videos. These videos will review the history of the 16th Amendment. After viewing, students should answer the first questions:

    • What is the origin and history of income taxes in the United States?
    • Who were the Progressives and what were their goals? Why do you think an income tax amendment passed during the Progressive Era?

    • HANDOUT: Note-Taking Chart: 16th Amendment and the Income Tax (Google Doc)
  • Video Clips

  • Step 2: Assignment

    Have students watch Clips 3-6, which demonstrate a range of perspectives on the income tax. Student should watch each video and identify the speaker’s opinion of the income tax, and take note of any evidence or arguments offered to support that view.

    This section could be done individually or jigsawed as a group activity, depending on time and preference.

    • What is the speaker’s view of the American income tax system?

    • What evidence or argument do they offer?
  • Step 3: Conclusion

    To wrap-up, students will watch videos about two related issues: the income tax in Washington, DC and the proposed wealth tax. Students will be asked about their opinion on these issues. Their answers should reflect what they have learned in the previous sections of this lesson.

  • Video Clips

  • Extension

    • Evaluate how our system compares to others with the US Tax Rates Compared to Other Countries lesson plan through C-SPAN Classroom.

    • Print sample 1040EZ and W2 forms. Guide students through the withholding sections and practice filling in the forms.

    • Research the range of exemptions and deductions available under the tax code. After researching, have student debate whether a specified tax deduction or credit is fair.

Additional Resources


  • 16th Amendment
  • Flat Tax
  • Income Tax
  • Inequality
  • Progressive Era
  • Repeal
  • Representation
  • Sixteenth Amendment
  • Taxation
  • Wealth Tax


Economics & Financial LiteracyU.S. History


High SchoolUniversity