Please explain the inherent and constitutional limitation of taxation?

1 Answer

kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The question is a little unclear, but the following information may be helpful.

The Founding Fathers, in drafting the Constitution, were very clear on the issue of taxation and the power to levy taxes, and on how  revenue from those taxes could be distributed among the states.  Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 reads:

"Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bounde to service for a term of years, and exclusing Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.  The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of theCongress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct."

With regard to the power to raise taxes, Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution reads as follows:

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States."  

Article 1, Section 9 includes the following provision:

"No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the Census or enumeraton herein before directed to be taken."

Given the importance of the issue of taxation to the origins of the American Revolution, it is not surprising that the Constitution's drafters made such efforts at constraining the government's ability to levy taxes and, especially, to distribute the revenue from taxes in a disproportional manner.  The issue of taxation would continue in perpetuity.  The Founder's intention, however, was clear: the power to raise and distribute taxes would be constrained, and no distribution of revenue would be allowed to benefit one region at the expense of another.  It is for this reason that the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1913, remains controversial to this day.  That amendment authorized Congress to impose an income tax without the constraints in Article 1 on how that revenue can be distributed.