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1932 Treasury Letter Recommending First Gasoline Tax

This is a letter marked “CONFIDENTIAL” from Treasury Secretary Ogden L. Mills to Acting House Ways and Means chairman Charles L. Crisp dated February 16, 1932 recommending that Congress enact a new excise tax on gasoline to help eliminate the projected federal deficit.

The letter was associated with updated deficit estimates that would have required an extra $337 million in taxes in order to get the budget to a state of balance. The letter proposed to get that $337 million as follows:

  • Increase of 1/2 of 1 percent in the corporate tax rate – $17 million
  • Increase in the income surtax rates for wealthy individuals – $50 million
  • A tax of 1 cent per gallon on gasoline – $165 million
  • A 7 percent tax on domestic consumption of electricity and natural gas – $94 million
  • An additional cent on capital stock sales and transfers – $11 million

Although the letter from the Treasury Secretary to the Acting Ways and Means chairman was marked “confidential,” its contents made it into the New York Times the following day.

Source: Records of the United States Senate, Committee on Finance, 72nd Congress, Box 67, Folder 72A-F9, National Archives.

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