Friday, October 9, 2009

Caron on Tax Archaeology - or - why Tax Stories lack a happy ending

Tax Archaeology has just been posted by Paul L. Caron, University of Cincinnati College of Law. Here's the abstract:

This paper provides an overview and introduction of the second edition of the Tax Stories book, which unpacks ten seminal U.S. Supreme Court federal income tax cases, as well as a recent decision of the U.S. Court of Appelas for the District of Columbia Circuit. Each of the chapters sets forth the social, factual, and legal background of the case, discusses the various court proceedings and judicial opinions, and explores the immediate impact and continuing importance of the case. The University of Cincinnati School of Law's companion web site contains the complete record of the case, including the court opinions, briefs of the parties and amicus curiae, and oral arguments (audiotapes and transcripts, where available).

The paper discusses the concept behind the book, the criteria for selecting the eleven leading cases, and the doctrinal and institutional lessons drawn from the cases. Along the way, the paper explores the pedagogical impetus behind such an archaeological approach. The paper is critical of the performance of the courts and of the government in these cases. But in the end, the fault may lie not in the judges and lawyers for supplying the wrong answers but rather in the Administrations and Congresses that created a tax system that inevitably asks the wrong questions. Until fundamental reform of our income tax becomes more than a chimera, Tax Stories will remain without a happy ending.