Rhode Island Taxation

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

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 Rhode Island[edit | edit source]

County Level[edit | edit source]

Rhode Island county tax records pre-date the American Revolution and many can be found in the town clerk's office, town records , and at Rhode Island State Archives. The clerk's office usually has an inventory of tax list holdings.[1]

State Level[edit | edit source]

  • 1862-1866 Internal revenue assessment lists for Rhode Island 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.

DISTRICT 1: Cities of New Port, and Providence; Twps. of Barrington, Bristol, Cumberland, East Providence, Little Comption, Middletown, North Providence Pawtucket, Portsmouth, Smithfield, Tiverton, Warren
DISTRICT 2: Twps of Burrillville, Charlestown, Coventry, Cranston, East Greenwich, Exeter, Foster, Glocester, Hopkinton, Jamestown, Johnston, New Shoreham, North Kingstown, Richmond, Scituate, South Kingstown, Warwick Westerly, West Greenwich

Many Tax lists are at:
Archives Rhode Island State Archives
Address: 82 Smith St.
Rm. 208
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: (401) 222- 2473
Email: statelibrary@sos.ri.gov

Rhode Island Historical Society
Address: 110 Benevolent St.
Providence, RI 02906
Phone: (401) 331-8575
Rhode Island Historical Society (Their collection on line)

Tax money bag.jpg

Tax Laws[edit | edit source]

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. [2]

  • 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]