Tax Archaeology

13 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2003

See all articles by Paul L. Caron

Paul L. Caron

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law

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This paper provides an overview and introduction of the new Tax Stories book, which unpacks the ten seminal U.S. Supreme Court federal income tax cases. 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 in the Supreme Court, including the lower court opinions, briefs of the parties and amicus curiae, oral arguments (audiotapes and transcripts, where available), and the Supreme Court's opinion.

The paper discusses the concept behind the book, the criteria for selecting the ten 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 Supreme Court (in superintending the tax litigation structure) and of the government (in its litigation strategies) in these ten cases. But in the end, the fault may lie not in the lawyers and judges for supplying the wrong answers but rather in the income tax itself for asking the wrong the questions. Until fundamental reform of our income tax becomes more than a chimera, Tax Stories will remain without a happy ending.

The paper appears as a chapter in a book entitled Tax Stories: An In-Depth Look at Ten Leading Federal Income Tax Cases (Foundation Press, 2003). Additional financial support for the project was provided by the American Tax Policy Institute.

Keywords: Income Tax, Legal History, Tax Policy

JEL Classification: K34

Suggested Citation

Caron, Paul L., Tax Archaeology. U. of Cincinnati Public Law Research Paper No. 03-04, Available at SSRN: or

Paul L. Caron (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law ( email )

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