The history of the Federal estate tax in America has been a long and winding road. Careful estate planning is still one of the most important ways to manage and protect your assets for your heirs.
The Stamp Act of 1797 was the first federal estate tax in the United States and was passed to help fund an undeclared war with France; it was repealed in 1802. The Revenue Act of 1862 reinstated the estate tax in order to fund the Civil War; it was abolished in 1870. To finance the Spanish American War, the War Revenue Act of 1898 was passed, and subsequently abolished in 1902. Due to the costs of World War I, the Revenue Act of 1916 reinstated an estate tax that, in some form or other, has been in effect ever since.