(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘income tax

“He said that there was death and taxes, and taxes was worse, because at least death didn’t happen to you every year”*…

There are lots of questions that surround taxation: how much? on what? for what? Scott Galloway (@profgalloway) explores a couple of others: how efficient? how fair?

* Terry Pratchett


As we ruminate on returns, we might recall that it was on this date in 1920 that the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case on the constitutionality of the income tax for the second and last time (so far). The Income tax had been authorized by the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913, and created later that year via the Revenue Act of 1913. In 1915 stockholders filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, which arguing that the Sixteenth Amendment covers “many taxes other than on income”; in 1920, the Court affirmed the constitutionality of an income tax. Then came a second suit…

The United States Supreme Court last decided a federal income tax case on constitutional grounds in 1920, a century ago. The case was Eisner v. Macomber , and the issue was whether Congress had the power under the Sixteenth Amendment to include stock dividends in the tax base. The Court answered “no” because “income” in the Sixteenth Amendment meant “the gain derived from capital, from labor, or from both combined.” A stock dividend was not “income” because it did not increase the wealth of the shareholder.

Macomber was never formally overruled, and it is sometimes still cited by academics and practitioners for the proposition that the Constitution requires that income be “realized” to be subject to tax. However, in Glenshaw Glass , the Court held in the context of treble antitrust damages that the Macomber definition of income for constitutional purposes “was not meant to provide a touchstone to all future gross income questions” and that a better definition encompassed all “instances of undeniable accessions to wealth, clearly realized, and over which the taxpayers have complete dominion.”

In the century that has passed since Macomber , the Court has never held that a federal income tax statute was unconstitutional. This behavior of the Court constitutes a remarkable example of American tax exceptionalism, because in most other countries income tax laws are subject to constitutional review and are frequently ruled unconstitutional…

Reuven Avi-Yonah, “Should U.S. Tax Law Be Constitutionalized? Centennial Reflections on Eisner v. Macomber (1920)


“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”*…

How much does your state depend on federal taxation?

While the richer among us are better at sheltering their income, all Americans pay federal income tax on the same basis. But the return on– the benefits received from– those tax payments varies wildly among states.

MoneyGeek analyzed and ranked states according to their dependence on the federal government. Rankings account for political affiliation, net benefits individuals and organizations in the state receive, state government revenue from federal sources and GDP per capita. We also examined which states received the most in child tax credits — both in terms of the annualized total amount and amount received per capita.

Key findings:

• Eight of the 10 states most dependent on the federal government were Republican-voting, with the average red state receiving $1.35 per dollar spent [i.e., paid in federal taxes].

• Nine states sent more to the federal government than they received — seven of these were Democrat-voting and had higher per capita GDPs than many of the red states that received the most.

• New Mexico had the highest return on federal spending [per dollar of federal taxes paid] of any state ($4.33), and Delaware had the lowest ($0.63).

• The eight states receiving the highest child tax credit per capita were all Republican-voting.

The complete ranking, with data and more analysis at “Return on Statehood: How Much Value Every State Gets From the Federal Government.”

* Benjamin Franklin


As we contemplate contradiction, we might recall that it was on this date in 1620, after ten weeks at sea, that pilgrims aboard The Mayflower first sighted North America. Two days later they anchored off the tip of Cape Cod.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 9, 2021 at 1:00 am

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore”*…




The instruments of trade and finance are inventions, in the same way that creations of art and discoveries of science are inventions—products of the human imagination. Paper money, backed by the authority of the state, was an astonishing innovation, one that reshaped the world. That’s hard to remember: we grow used to the ways we pay our bills and are paid for our work, to the dance of numbers in our bank balances and credit-card statements. It’s only at moments when the system buckles that we start to wonder why these things are worth what they seem to be worth. The credit crunch in 2008 triggered a panic when people throughout the financial system wondered whether the numbers on balance sheets meant what they were supposed to mean. As a direct response to the crisis, in October, 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto, whoever he or she or they might be, published the white paper that outlined the idea of Bitcoin, a new form of money based on nothing but the power of cryptography.

The quest for new forms of money hasn’t gone away. In June of this year, Facebook unveiled Libra, global currency that draws on the architecture of Bitcoin. The idea is that the value of the new money is derived not from the imprimatur of any state but from a combination of mathematics, global connectedness, and the trust that resides in the world’s biggest social network. That’s the plan, anyway. How safe is it? How do we know what libras or bitcoins are worth, or whether they’re worth anything? Satoshi Nakamoto’s acolytes would immediately turn those questions around and ask, How do you know what the cash in your pocket is worth?

The present moment in financial invention therefore has some similarities with the period when money in the form we currently understand it—a paper currency backed by state guarantees—was first created. The hero of that origin story is the nation-state. In all good stories, the hero wants something but faces an obstacle. In the case of the nation-state, what it wants to do is wage war, and the obstacle it faces is how to pay for it…

The ever-illuminating John Lanchester explains how, over three centuries, the heresies of two bankers became the basis of our modern economy: “The Invention of Money.”

[Lanchester’s latest novel, The Wall, was just long-listed for the Booker.]

* Yogi Berra


As we learn from the past, we might recall that it was on this date in 1861 that the U.S. government, in anticipation of the expense of the looming Civil War, levied its first income tax as part of the Revenue Act of 1861.  It assessed 3% of all incomes over $800, but included no enforcement mechanism, and so generated very little revenue.  It was revised in 1862 in a more effective form, then rescinded in 1872.

The first peace-time income tax was established in 1894, but was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (the 10th amendment forbade any powers not expressed in the US Constitution, and the Constitution provided no power to impose any other than a direct tax by apportionment).  It was in 1913, with the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, that income tax became a permanent fixture in the U.S. tax system.

HR54_Revenue_Act source


Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 5, 2019 at 1:01 am

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