California Taxation

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

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Why Use Tax Records[edit | edit source]

By studying several consecutive years of tax records you may determine when a young men came of age, when individuals moved in and out of a home, or when they died leaving heirs. Authorities determined wealth (real estate, or income) to be taxed. Taxes can be for polls, real and personal estate, or schools.

Tax record content varies and may include the name and residence of the taxpayer, description of the real estate, name of original purchaser, description of personal property, number of males over 21, number of school children, slaves, and farm animals. Tax records usually are arranged by date and locality and are not normally indexed. Tax records can be used in place of missing land and census records to locate a person’s residence.

How to Use Tax Records for California[edit | edit source]

County Level[edit | edit source]

Currently there are very few tax records available in the Family History catalog . The exception are the counties of Alpine, Amador, Fresno, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and San Luis Obispo.

State Level[edit | edit source]

1862-1874 Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for California Internal revenue assessment lists were created into divisions called Districts, each county is put into a district. County names are arranged alphabetically within the division and then within months. The following is a list of counties placed in which district. (knowing the district and county your ancestor lived in will make searching this years taxes list a little faster)
(once on page scroll down to district desired and click on camera to open)

U.S. Internal Revenue Assessment Lists. Three types of Reports: A=Annual; M=Monthly; S=Special Years and Reports may be different. You can check here: Roll numbers pages 5-16

DISTRICT 1: San Francisco, San Mateo
DISTRICT 2: Alameda, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Ovispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz
DISTRICT 3: Buena Vista, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Fresno, Mariposa, Merced, Mono, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, Tuolumne
DISTRICT 4: Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacraments, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Yuba
DISTRICT 5: Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Trinity,

The California State Archives has tax records from 1861 on. The main record collections are:

  • Secured Tax Rolls -- A record of all taxes levied on real property.
  • Indexes to Secured Tax Rolls -- Indexes to records of taxes levied on real property.
  • Unsecured Tax Rolls -- A record of all taxes levied on certain personal property.

For a more complete description of the contents of these records, see The Historical Record of County Government in California[1], pages 10-12 or Online California State Archives[2], page 68.

Tax Laws[edit | edit source]

Inheritance Tax: Began around 1893 Revised in 1905, 1911, 1913 and 1917 ( Compiled 1921)

Estate Tax: began 8 September 1916

To learn more about these two types of taxes, go to Inheritance Tax Act of California and the Estate Tax Law of the U.S. [3]

Abraham Lincoln instituted the income tax in 1862, and 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. For the Southern States that were part of the Confederate side of the Civil War, once Union troops took over parts of the Southern States, income tax were instituted on them. [4]

  • To learn more about this Collection click here
  • To learn more about the Civil War taxes click here

What history has shown us is that while property taxes are locally levied, there is significant state involvement with the amount of tax local political subdivisions can levy, how property assessments are conducted, and what services local taxing subdivisions must provide for their residents. This comes at a cost to state taxpayers, because the state has obligations it must fund as well, with a limited amount of state tax dollars.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Historical County records
  2. Online California State Archives
  3. Inheritance Tax Act of California and the Estate Tax Law of the U.S.
  4. Creation of the IRA