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Sixteenth Amendment

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Did The Sixteenth Amendment Ever Matter? Does It Matter Today?, Erik M. Jensen Jan 2014

Did The Sixteenth Amendment Ever Matter? Does It Matter Today?, Erik M. Jensen

Faculty Publications

This article, prepared for a symposium on the centennial of the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, argues that the Amendment was legally and politically necessary in 1913, if there was going to be a modern income tax, and that it remains significant today. The Amendment provides that “taxes on incomes” need not be apportioned among the states on the basis of population, as would otherwise be required for direct taxes. An apportioned income tax would be an absurdity, and, if there were no Amendment, Congress could not enact an unapportioned tax on income from property, the sort of tax that ...


Prepositions In The Constitution, Erik M. Jensen Jan 2011

Prepositions In The Constitution, Erik M. Jensen

Faculty Publications

To defend the proposition that prepositions matter, this article examines the "of" in the phrase "duties of tonnage" and the "on" in "taxes on incomes."


A Tax Or Not A Tax: That Is The Question, Erik M. Jensen Jan 2011

A Tax Or Not A Tax: That Is The Question, Erik M. Jensen

Faculty Publications

This piece is part of the author’s probably misguided effort to take seriously the Sixteenth Amendment phrase “taxes on incomes.” The piece (in form a letter to the editor, but complete with footnotes!) responds to a reader who had noted that, because of a cap, the basic Social Security “tax” does not reach higher levels of income. Because the author had earlier argued that a tax “on” incomes should result in higher tax liability for higher-income persons, it might seem that the Social Security levy is unconstitutional (or the author just wrong). This piece makes several points: (1) The ...


Murphy V. Internal Revenue Service, The Meaning Of 'Income,' And Sky-Is-Falling Tax Commentary, Erik M. Jensen Jan 2010

Murphy V. Internal Revenue Service, The Meaning Of 'Income,' And Sky-Is-Falling Tax Commentary, Erik M. Jensen

Faculty Publications

This article examines the widely noted D.C. Circuit case, Murphy v. Internal Revenue Service, where a panel twice got itself hopelessly entangled in the relationship between the meaning of “income” in the Internal Revenue Code and its meaning in the Sixteenth Amendment. At issue was whether a whistle-blower's recovery for emotional distress could be reached by the income tax. The first time around, the panel concluded that the recovery could not be taxed constitutionally because it was not income. The second time, apparently after having visited another planet, the very same panel concluded that the recovery could be ...


Interpreting The Sixteenth Amendment (By Way Of The Direct-Tax Clauses), Erik M. Jensen Feb 2006

Interpreting The Sixteenth Amendment (By Way Of The Direct-Tax Clauses), Erik M. Jensen

Faculty Publications

The Sixteenth Amendment and the direct-tax clauses have become subjects of interest in the legal academy and, as proposals for new forms of national taxation emerge on a seemingly daily basis, they could become subjects of more general interest as well. Under the direct-tax clauses, a direct tax must be apportioned among the states on the basis of population, making such a tax difficult, although not impossible, to implement. Following the Supreme Court decisions in the 1895 Income Tax Cases, which held that an 1894 income tax was a direct tax that had not been properly apportioned, the Sixteenth Amendment ...


The Taxing Power, The Sixteenth Amendment, And The Meaning Of ‘Incomes,’, Erik M. Jensen Feb 2006

The Taxing Power, The Sixteenth Amendment, And The Meaning Of ‘Incomes,’, Erik M. Jensen

Faculty Publications

This article examines the debates leading to the enactment of the 1894 income tax, which the Supreme Court struck down in 1895, and the Sixteenth Amendment, ratified in 1913, and concludes that an income tax and a tax on consumption were understood to be fundamentally different types of taxes. The author argues that the term “taxes on incomes” in the Sixteenth Amendment should be interpreted with that distinction in mind. The Amendment was intended to make a “tax on incomes,” and only a tax on incomes, possible without the apportionment that would otherwise be required for a direct tax. For ...


Unapportioned Direct-Consumption Taxes And The Sixteenth Amendment, Erik M. Jensen Feb 2006

Unapportioned Direct-Consumption Taxes And The Sixteenth Amendment, Erik M. Jensen

Faculty Publications

The point of this essay is simple: a direct-consumption tax like the Forbes-Armey-Hall-Rabushka flat tax or the Nunn-Domenici USA tax is not a "tax on incomes" within the meaning of the Sixteenth Amendment. As a result, such a tax would be constitutional only if it were apportioned among the states on the basis of population. And since these taxes would not be apportioned-how could they be and work as they are intended to work?-they would be unconstitutional.


Taxation And The Constitution: How To Read The Direct-Tax Clauses, Erik M. Jensen Jan 2006

Taxation And The Constitution: How To Read The Direct-Tax Clauses, Erik M. Jensen

Faculty Publications

This essay responds to Professor Bruce Ackerman, who had challenged the author's understanding of the Direct-Tax Clauses of the Constitution and the Sixteenth Amendment to that Constitution.


The Apportionment Of ‘Direct Taxes’: Are Consumption Taxes Constitutional?, Erik M. Jensen Jan 2006

The Apportionment Of ‘Direct Taxes’: Are Consumption Taxes Constitutional?, Erik M. Jensen

Faculty Publications

In debates about reorienting the American revenue system, nearly everyone assumes the Constitution is irrelevant. With few exceptions, the tax provisions in the original Constitution - particularly the direct-tax apportionment rule and the uniformity rule - have been interpreted to be paper tigers. And in only one major case has the Sixteenth Amendment, which excepts "taxes on incomes" from apportionment, been held to limit congressional power.

S Rejecting conventional wisdom, this Article argues that some consumption taxes would violate constitutional norms. The Article focuses on the requirement that “direct taxes” be apportioned among the states on the basis of population. From a ...