Tax Reform Act of 1969

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The Tax Reform Act of 1969 (Pub.L. 91–172) was a United States federal tax law signed by President Richard Nixon in 1969. Its largest impact was creating the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was intended to tax high-income earners who had previously avoided incurring tax liability due to various exemptions and deductions.

It also established individual and corporate minimum taxes and a new tax schedule for single taxpayers. The Act slightly increased standard deductions and personal exemptions and created more stringent requirements on nonprofit organizations, which many argue drove them to professionalization.[1]


The Office of Tax Analysis of the United States Department of the Treasury summarized the tax changes as follows:[2]

  • phased-in increase in personal exemption amount from $600 to $750
  • repealed investment tax credit
  • increased minimum standard deduction from $300 plus $100/capita (total max $1,000) to $1,000
  • phased-in increase in percentage standard deduction from 10% to 15%
  • temporarily extended income tax surcharge at 5% annual rate (thru 6/30/70)
  • established individual and corporate minimum taxes
  • established new tax rate schedule for single taxpayers
  • delayed scheduled reduction in telephone and auto excise taxes
  • lowered maximum tax rate on earned income from 70% to 50%

The Act provided a government definition of "private foundation" for the first time (albeit indirectly).[3] The law enacted these requirements of private philanthropic Foundations.[4]

  • 4% tax on investment income (reduced to 2% in 1978)
  • 5% minimum distribution of income
  • Limit of 20% ownership of the stock holdings of a business
  • Prohibition on the attempt to influence legislation or elections
  • Taxation on unrelated business income
  • Prohibitions on “self-dealing”; officers and donors could not benefit financially from their transactions with the foundation
  • Enhanced reporting requirements, including grants awarded; public access to all of this information guaranteed

Capital gains[edit]

The explanation of the Act prepared by Congress's Staff of the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation says:

20. Alternative capital gains tax rate.—The Act gradually eliminates the alternative tax on long-term capital gains for individual taxpayers to the extent they have capital gains of more than $50,000. Long-term capital gains up to $50,000 received by individuals continue to qualify for the 25-percent alternative capital gains tax rate. However, the maximum tax rate on that part of long-term capital gains above $50,000 is increased to 29.5 percent in 1970, 32.5 percent in 1971, and 35 percent (one-half the 70 percent top tax rate applicable to ordinary income) in 1972 and later years. The alternative tax rate on corporate long-term capital gains income is increased to 28 percent in 1970 and 30 percent in 1971 and later years."[5]

The Act also included for the first time an Alternative Minimum Tax, set at 10%. The change was explained as follows:

The prior treatment imposed no limit on the amount of income which an individual or corporation could exclude from tax as the result of various tax preferences. As a result, there were large variations in the tax burdens placed on individuals or corporations with similar economic incomes, depending upon the size of their preference income. In general, those individual or corporate taxpayers who received the bulk of their income from personal services or manufacturing were taxed at relatively higher tax rates than others. On the other hand, individuals or corporations which received the bulk of their income from such sources as capital gains or were in a position to benefit from net lease arrangements, from accelerated depreciation on real estate, from percentage depletion, or from other tax-preferred activities tended to pay relatively low rates of tax. In fact, many individuals with high incomes who could benefit from these provisions paid lower effective rates of tax than many individuals with modest incomes. In extreme cases, individuals enjoyed large economic incomes without paying any tax at all. This was true for example in the case of 154 returns in 1966 with adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 a year (apart from those with income exclusions which do not show on the returns filed). Similarly, a number of large corporations paid either no tax at all or taxes which represented very low effective rates."[6]


Before 2013, the Alternative Minimum Tax was not indexed for inflation.[7] Since 1969, more and more taxpayers have earned enough because of inflation to get ensnared by the tax on the "wealthy."[8] For example, it was originally designed to force 155 people with income exceeding $200,000 ($1.17 million in 2005 dollars), who had paid no income taxes in 1967 due to deductions and tax credits, to pay some tax. However, it had grown to include 1.8% of all taxpayers, (or 2,364,444 returns) in 2003. The Tax Policy Center reports that 4.3 million tax payers paid it in 2011.[9] However, those who pay the tax may be eligible to take a tax credit in future years in which they do not owe it.[10]

Inflation-adjusted numbers[edit]

Corrected for inflation by CPI:

1969 dollars 2007 dollars
$100 $564.85
$300 $1,694.55
$600 $3,389.10
$750 $4,236.38
$1,000 $5,648.50


  1. ^ Frumkin, Peter (1998). "The long recoil from regulation: private philanthropic foundations and the Tax Reform Act of 1969". American Review of Public Administration. 28 (3): 266–286. doi:10.1177/027507409802800303. S2CID 154688158.
  2. ^ Office of Tax Analysis (2003). "Revenue Effects of Major Tax Bills" (PDF). United States Department of the Treasury. Working Paper 81, page 12. Retrieved 15 December 2010. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help); |author= has generic name (help); External link in |author= (help)
  3. ^ See IRC section 509
  4. ^ "Tax Reform Act of 1969 | Learning to Give".
  5. ^ General explanation of the Tax reform act of 1969, H.R. 13270, 91st Congress, Public Law 91-172. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. December 3, 1970. p. 7. OL 5739112M.
  6. ^ General explanation of the Tax reform act of 1969, H.R. 13270, 91st Congress, Public Law 91-172. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. December 3, 1970. p. 105. OL 5739112M.
  7. ^ See Internal Revenue Code section 55(d), as amended by section 104(b)(1) of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (Jan. 2, 2013).
  8. ^ "How did the Present Alternative Minimum Tax come into Existence? | History News Network".
  9. ^ "Alternative minimum tax (AMT)". Tax Policy Center.
  10. ^ "Topic No. 556 Alternative Minimum Tax | Internal Revenue Service".

External links[edit]