Tax in the United States

Tax Definition

A contribution Imposed by government on individuals for the service of the state. 13 Pa. St. 104; 115 111. 109. It is distinguished from a subsidy, as being certain and orderly. Jacob. A sum of money assessed under the authority of the state on the personal property (according to the definition of Tax based on the Cyclopedic Law Dictionary) of an individual for the use of the state. 60 Me. 124. It is distinguished from a local assessment, as being imposed without reference to peculiar benefits to particular individuals or property. See “Special Assessment.” “Excise” and “impost” are sometimes used as synonymous with “tax,” but in strictness apply only to taxes upon production or consumption, and upon imports, respectively. Taxes are either:

  • Direct or indirect, direct being those assessed on the property, person, business, etc., of those who are to pay them, and indirect being a tax levied on commodities before they reach the consumer. Cooley, Tax’n, 6.
  • Ad valorem or specific, ad valorem being those imposed in proportion to value, and specific those consisting of a fixed sum imposed upon an article or thing by name.
  • General or local, general being those imposed on property throughout the state, and local being those imposed on the locality specially benefitted. Taxes are also classified according to the nature of the property on which they are imposed, as income taxes, inheritance taxes, personal property taxes, etc.

Read more about Tax in the legal Dictionaries.

Legal Materials

U.S. Federal Tax

A lot of U.S. tax information is now free on the Internet – check out the IRS Web Site and the ABA’s Tax Law Index. Also, most tax-related materials are available on Lexis, Westlaw and subscription databases: RIA’s CheckPoint, CCH’s Intelliconnect, WestlawTax and Tax Analysts’ Federal Research Library.

Court Opinions: In addition to being published with all the other opinions of each particular court, tax-related judicial opinions are collected on Westlaw (FTX-CS) back to 1789, the Federal Research Library back to 1913 and Checkpoint. See also “United States Tax Court.”

Looseleaf Services: Leading tax looseleaf services include RIA’s Federal Tax Coordinator and the CCH Standard Federal Tax Reporter. The RIA service is organized by subject, while the CCH is organized by IRC Section. The RIA service is available electronically on Checkpoint, while the CCH is on Lexis (CCH;CCHTAX) and the Intelliconnect.

CCH also publishes an Estate and Gift Tax Reporter and an Excise Tax Reporter, each available as a looseleaf or on Intelliconnect.

Legislation: Most Federal tax legislation is available through the general sources (see “Federal Bills,” “Public Laws,” “Federal Legislative History,” etc. in this legal Encyclopedia). You generally can keep track of tax legislation by following or searching the tax news (see below).

The Internal Revenue Code is sold as a separate title, but you’ll also find it as Title 26 in all versions of the United States Code (see the “United States Code” platform) and through the electronic tax databases (Lexis, Westlaw, Intelliconnect, Checkpoint and the Federal Research Library). See also “Internal Revenue Code and Regulations.”

The Tax Policy Center posts a list of major tax laws enacted since 1940, with a short summary of the tax provisions in each one.

Legislative History: For tax-specific legislative history resources, see the “Legislative History” section of the Internal Revenue Code and Regulations entry. See also the general information discussed in the “Federal Legislative History” entry.

News: The best daily U.S. Federal tax news sources are (1) Tax Analysts’ Tax Notes Today, available from Tax Analysts and Lexis (TAXANA;TNT), and (2) BNA’s Daily Tax Report, available from BNA and Lexis (FEDTAX;BNADTR).

TNT also has an International tax news edition, available from Tax Analysts and Lexis (TAXRIA;TNI), and an edition for U.S. state & local taxes, also available from Tax Analysts and Lexis (TAXRIA;STN).

Free tax news is available from a number of sources including BNA, CCH and Deloitte.

Regulations: See the separate entry for “Internal Revenue Service” and Tax Regulations in this legal Encyclopedia.

B. U.S. State & Local Tax

The best source for state tax materials is probably the state’s CCH State Tax Reporter, which will include statutes, regs, agency pronouncements, etc. The Reporter will also include the tax laws for the state’s larger cities. CCH State Tax Reporters are available on Intelliconnect and Lexis. Much of the same material is available on Westlaw and CheckPoint, if you have a subscription for the state in question.

Tax Notes Today has a state version (paper, Lexis and Tax Analysts). CCH publishes the State Tax Review, which covers current and pending legislative and regulatory developments in all states and D.C.

Links to state revenue departments are available through Dennis Schmidt’s Tax and Accounting Sites Directory. Links to online forms, tax, codes, etc. are also posted in the Tax and Accounting Sites Directory. See also the entries for individual cities.

C. International and Foreign Tax

Key resources for researching international/foreign tax issues are available in the International taxation entry of this legal Encyclopedia.
Treaties: See “Treaties”, “Tax Treaties” or “Foreign Treaties” in this legal Encyclopedia.

Main Topics of Taxes

This entry in the American Encyclopedia has been organized to address the following topics, among others:

  • Taxes : Capital Gains
  • Taxes : Corporate Tax
  • Taxes : Income Taxes
  • Taxes : IRS Audits
  • Taxes : Property Taxes
  • Taxes : Sales Taxes
  • Taxes : Self Employment Taxes
  • Taxes : Small Business Tax
  • Taxes : Tax Evasion

Tax in Foreign Legal Encyclopedias

For starting research in the law of a foreign country:

Link Description
Tax Tax in the World Legal Encyclopedia.
Tax Tax in the European Legal Encyclopedia.
Tax Tax in the Asian Legal Encyclopedia.
Tax Tax in the UK Legal Encyclopedia.
Tax Tax in the Australian Legal Encyclopedia.

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Tax in the Federal Budget Process

Meaning of Tax in the congressional and executive budget processes (GAO source): A sum that legislation imposes upon persons (broadly defined to include individuals, trusts, estates, partnerships, associations, companies, and corporations), property, or activities to pay for government operations. The power to impose and collect federal taxes is given to Congress in Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution. Collections that arise from the sovereign powers of the federal government constitute the bulk of governmental receipts, which are compared with budget outlays in calculating the budget surplus or deficit. (See also Government Receipts under Collections; Revenue.)

Concept of Tax

In the U.S., in the context of Political Economy and Public Policy, Tax has the following meaning: A compulsory transfer of money from private individuals or groups to the government. (Source of this definition of Tax : University of Texas)


Tax Background


See Also

  • Political Economy
  • Public Policy

Tax Background


See Also

  • Total Deficit
  • Budget Deficit
  • Budget Receipts
  • Governmental Receipts
  • Total Surplus
  • Budget Surplus
  • Tax Expenditure
  • Agricultural tax
  • Business income tax
  • Capital gains
  • Corporation tax

Further Reading

  • Legislatures and the budget process: the myth of fiscal control (J Wehner, 2010)
  • Reconcilable Differences?: Congress, the Budget Process, and the Deficit (JB Gilmour, 1990)
  • Fiscal institutions and fiscal performance(JM Poterba, J von Hagen, 2008)


Gas Guzzler Tax and Tax Law

There are more details about Gas Guzzler Tax in thetax compilation of the legal Encyclopedia.

Tax in E-Commerce Law

Tax and the Legal Aspects of E-Commerce

Concept of Tax

In the U.S., in the context of Political Economy and Public Policy, Tax has the following meaning: A compulsory transfer of money from private individuals or groups to the government. (Source of this definition of Tax : University of Texas)


Tax Background


See Also

  • Political Economy
  • Public Policy

Tax Background


See Also

  • Internet Discovery
  • Internet Evidence
  • Internet Jurisdiction
  • Trade Secrets
  • Trademark
  • Weblogs
  • Cyberlaw

Tax: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Tax. This part provides references, in relation to Tax, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Tax by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Tax and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Tax or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Tax and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Tax. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Tax should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Tax when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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