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The Story of Subchapter K: Mark A. Johnson's Quest

BUSINESS TAX STORIES, Foundation Press, 2005

Posted: 29 Apr 2005  

Mark P. Gergen

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law


In this chapter, Gergen explores the historical origins of Subchapter K from the perspective of a "forgotten protagonist," a young Jewish tax attorney named Mark H. Johnson. Born in 1911, Johnson emerged by the early 1940s as rising star in the field of partnership taxation, having authored several leading articles on the subject and a leading treatise on taxation with the more senior Jacob Rabkin. More significantly, Johnson played a very important role during the period from 1949 to 1954 in the law reform movement that led to the adoption of Subchapter K in 1954. As the founding chair of the ABA Partnership Tax Section and later a special consultant on partnerships to the American Law Institute ("ALI") Income Tax Project, Johnson may fairly be characterized as a "founding father" of Subchapter K. Gergen's chapter illustrates a feature of U.S. business tax history largely absent from Clark's evolutionary model - i.e., the influence of specific individuals driven not by self-interest but rather a commitment to principled law reform. During the reformist period examined in this chapter, an elite tax bar was enlisted to guide Congress through broad-based structural reform of partnership tax. In the end, Johnson's views were not wholly embraced by Congress; yet his influence on the field can still be seen today.

Suggested Citation

Gergen, Mark P., The Story of Subchapter K: Mark A. Johnson's Quest. BUSINESS TAX STORIES, Foundation Press, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Mark P. Gergen (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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