The Uneasy Case for Devolution of the Individual Income Tax

Posted: 8 May 2003


This Article argues that the restoration of a communitarian approach to taxation can help soften the widespread anti-tax sentiment that has engulfed the United States. It proposes and analyzes a concrete plan for the collection of revenue that taps into the same sense of shared community sacrifice that was invoked in fourteenth-century England. It proposes that the United States adopt a modernized, decentralized system of revenue collection modeled after the requisition, which was the chief means of raising revenue in the early American republic. Whereas the federal government currently collects approximately seventy percent of the nation's tax dollars, and the state and local governments collect the remaining thirty percent, this Article contemplates how the United States, and the individual states themselves, might differ if those numbers were reversed. The article begins by explaining why, due to the historical peculiarities of America's fiscal history, a decentralized approach to collecting revenues is not currently under consideration. Further, the article proposes a tax system in which the federal government would abolish the individual income tax, and discusses the likely effects of such a program on governmental spending by the states and on citizen mobility. The Article then explores the justifications for such an approach to taxation. The Article also consists of a utilitarian analysis of the costs and benefits of shifting to requisitions finance. Finally, the Article confronts the serious policy challenges that would arise if society were to implement requisitions finance, and ends with a discussion of several variations on the requisitions finance model that can address several of the communitarian and utilitarian criticisms.

Keywords: Tax, individual income tax, income tax, tax system, requisitions finance, taxation, revenue, revenue collection, anti-tax, state tax, federal tax, mobility, economic, economic conditions, charity, utilitarian, communitarian

JEL Classification: H2, H21, H24, H25, H26, H71, K34

Suggested Citation

Strahilevitz, Lior, The Uneasy Case for Devolution of the Individual Income Tax. Iowa Law Review, Vol. 85, No. 3, March 2000. Available at SSRN:

Lior Strahilevitz (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-834-8665 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)

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