As of 03/13/2009

Series 1827: Black Market Tax Data. 1955-1981.
Tax Commission (RG 45).

      Files concerning taxes levied on alcoholic beverages in Mississippi at a time when the state was officially "dry". The bulk of the files dates from 1964 to 1966, a period that saw a shift from statewide prohibition to county-optional prohibition. A wide variety of material is found in this series, including correspondence, relevant legislation, newspaper clippings, notes, tax records, liquor excise tax stamps, publications of Mississippi's and other states' alcohol control agencies, Tax Commission and Alcoholic Beverage Control Division annual reports, estimates of liquor revenues, form letters, blank forms, law enforcement investigation reports, liquor inspection reports, and other data regarding all aspects of alcohol regulation in Mississippi. Arrangement is random.

      These files were gathered by Robert Luther Livingston, a certified public accountant and long-time employee of the Tax Commission who served as the purchasing agent for its Alcoholic Beverage Control Division. Upon Livingston's retirement, he was given permission to borrow the files from the Tax Commission with the intention of writing a book on the Black Market Tax. The book was never written, and after Livingston's death his widow transferred these files to the Department of Archives and History.

Annual Reports of Liquor Excise Tax/ABC Division: 1965-196712463
Federal permit copies of retail liquor tax receipts: 1963-196412464
General Files12460
General Files12461
General Files12462
General Files12463
General Files12546
Liquor Data printouts: 1965-196612467
Liquor, Beer & Gas Credits printout: 196712466
Master list of taxpayers: 196612465
Mississippi retail liquor tax receipts: 1965-196612464
Nulla Bona rubber stamp12466
Wholesale Liquor Data printout: 196512468
Wholesale Liquor Data printout, 1965, w/1966 list of taxpayers12469

Historical Note

      In 1908 the Mississippi Legislature enacted statewide prohibition of alcohol (Chapter 113, General Laws of Mississippi, 1908). In 1966, the Legislature approved the Local Option Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, which allowed counties to hold elections to determine whether they remained wet or dry. In the fifty-eight intervening years between those two dates, the degree of enforcement of prohibition in Mississippi was left largely to the discretion of county authorities. For example, on the Gulf Coast and in the counties along the Mississippi River, alcohol was typically bought and sold openly. Counties that had anti-alcohol sheriffs were dry; counties with more lenient sheriffs turned a blind eye to bootleggers and beer-haulers.

      Despite the prohibition laws, alcohol in Mississippi was a multimillion-dollar business, and the state could not afford to lose its share of the profits. Thus, the Legislature enacted the so-called "Black Market Tax Law", (Chapter 139, General Laws of Mississippi, 1944) which enabled the state to collect sales tax and excise tax on liquor. In 1964 the Black Market Tax Law was repealed, although it was replaced by legislation which kept the same system of taxation of liquor in place but gave the state new powers to enforce the tax laws (Chapter 534, General Laws of Mississippi, 1964). Initially the state Tax Collector was responsible for collecting liquor taxes, but in 1962 the office of Tax Collector was abolished by the Legislature and the Tax Commission was given all of its responsibilities, effective January 1, 1964 (Chapter 588, General Laws of Mississippi, 1962). The Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Tax Commission was specifically charged with administering all tax laws concerning alcohol.

      By 1965, Mississippi was taking in about $4.5 million dollars in liquor tax, out of an estimated $36 million dollar per year business. Over 1700 liquor retailers and 18 wholesale liquor dealers had been licensed by the state, and all were taxed on a substance that was illegal. This situation could not last forever. Things came to a head in 1966 when the Country Club of Jackson was raided by Hinds County deputy sheriffs and thousands of dollars of liquor was confiscated. The case went before county Judge Charles T. Barber, who ruled that because Mississippi taxed alcohol, its prohibition laws were null and void. The same year, Mississippi's Local Option Liquor Law was passed by the Legislature (Chapter 540, General Laws of Mississippi, 1966).