The Income Tax, the Constitution, and the Unrealized Importance of Helvering v. Griffiths

34 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2024

Date Written: January 16, 2024

Abstract

The Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in Moore v. United States, for the purpose of deciding whether the realization doctrine remains a constitutional limitation on Congress's ability to impose an unapportioned income tax, as the Court held in its famous 1920 decision in Eisner v. Macomber. Although it is natural to look to 1920 and Macomber as the cause of today's uncertain scope of the congressional power to tax income, what did not happen in the Court's 1943 decision in Helvering v. Griffiths is as significant as what did happen in 1920. the presence of Moore on the Court's docket today depends on Macomber's wildly improbable survival in 1943. That survival was the product of a perfect storm of unlikely circumstances. This article tells the story of Helvering v. Griffiths, and how Congress and the Roosevelt administration snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, with a crucial assist from Justice Jackson.

Keywords: income tax, constitution, realization, Moore, Macomber

Suggested Citation

Zelenak, Lawrence A., The Income Tax, the Constitution, and the Unrealized Importance of Helvering v. Griffiths (January 16, 2024). Virginia Tax Review, Vol. 43, No. 2, 2023, Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2024-12, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4696772

Lawrence A. Zelenak (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
110
Abstract Views
227
Rank
466,570
PlumX Metrics