Taxpayer Suit

Taxpayer Suit in the United States

Legal action brought by a citizen to challenge a particular governmental expenditure. A taxpayer suit attempts to establish standing to sue through the injury suffered by the citizen as a taxpayer. Taxpayer status is generally sufficient in state courts to establish standing to sue. While the taxpayer suit is possible in federal court, it is much more difficult to satisfy standing requirements.

See Also

Challenge (Civil Process) Standing (Civil Process) Test Case (Civil Process).

Analysis and Relevance

Standing to sue requires that the plaintiff to a legal action has suffered direct and legal injury. The taxpayer suit is based upon the idea that such injury comes from the payment of money to the public treasury. If taxpayer status easily satisfied the standing requirement, then virtually anyone could challenge any expenditure of public money. It is for this reason that the Supreme Court restricted taxpayer suits in Froihingham v. Mellon (262 U.S. 447: 1923), ruling that no taxpayer suffered sufficiently individualized injury to establish standing. For several decades, Frothingham categorically precluded federal taxpayer suits. An important modification was made in 1968 in the Court’s decision in Flast v. Cohen (392 U.S. 83: 1968). Flast established the so-called “nexus” rule, which allows taxpayer challenges so long as a nexus or connection exists between taxpayer status, the particular program under challenge, and a specific constitutional limit on such government spending. In the Flast case, the taxpayer challenged a particular congressional spending action on First Amendment establishment of religion grounds, a circumstance sufficient to create the nexus needed to qualify for an exception to the Frothingham doctrine.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Taxpayer Suit from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Taxpayer Suit: 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 Taxpayer Suit. This part provides references, in relation to Taxpayer Suit, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Taxpayer Suit 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 Taxpayer Suit 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 Taxpayer Suit 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 Taxpayer Suit 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 Taxpayer Suit. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Taxpayer Suit 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 Taxpayer Suit when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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