The powers of Congress, and the limitations set upon those powers, are set forth in Article I of the United States Constitution. Section 8 specifies both the power to collect, “Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises,” and the requirement that, “Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”One of the major concerns of the Constitutional Convention was to limit the powers of the Federal Government. Among the powers to be limited was the power of taxation. It was thought that head taxes and property taxes (slaves could be taxed as either or both) were likely to be abused, and that they bore no relation to the activities in which the Federal Government had a legitimate interest. The fourth clause of section 9 therefore specifies that, “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.”The courts have generally held that direct taxes are limited to taxes on people (variously called capitation, poll tax or head tax) and property. (Penn Mutual Indemnity Co. v. C.I.R., 227 F.2d 16, 19-20 (3rd Cir. 1960).) All other taxes are commonly referred to as “indirect taxes,” because they tax an… Read full this story
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