Category Archives: US Transition Tax

Part 54 – Reactions To The Argument Before The Supreme Court In Moore: “Due Process” Does Matter

Introduction – More on Moore – A Focus on “due process”

Much of the argument before the Supreme Court in the Moore case focused NOT on whether there was income (it was accepted that the foreign corporation had realized income). Rather the discussion was focused on “due process issues”. Specifically the issues of (1) the retroactive nature of the income and (2) the fairness of attributing the income of the foreign corporation to the U.S. shareholder.

In Part 42 and Part 49 have written about the relevance of retroactivity.

Because “due process” issues were raised in the hearing, some commentators have begun discussing the “due process” issues which are part of the Moore appeal.

What follows are links to some examples of the discussion.

It will be fascinating to see how “due process” factors into the decision of the Court.

Interested in Moore (pun intended) about the § 965 transition tax?

Read “The Little Red Transition Tax Book“.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter at @USTransitionTax

Part 52 – December 5, 2023 – The Supreme Court Hearing In Moore v. United States

Moore v. United States – December 5, 2023

https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/audio/2023/22-800

Audio of the actual hearing:

This podcast is an audio of the actual argument that took place before the court. The relevant link to the Supreme Court site is:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/audio/2023/22-800

Significantly a transcript of the argument is available at:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2023/22-800_9ol1.pdf

The audio of the argument is also available at:

https://prep.podbean.com/e/moore-v-united-states-december-5-2023-the-argument-before-the-court/

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SEAT President Dr. Laura Snyder attended the hearing. A fascinating podcast discussing her observations (right after the hearing ended) is available here.

https://prep.podbean.com/e/december-5-2023-debriefing-the-moore-case-what-happened-at-the-hearing/

SEAT along with AARO authored an amicus brief which explained the how the 965 transition tax impacted Americans abroad.

IRS Medic hosted a podcast both before, during and after the Supreme Court hearing. A link to that podcast is here:

Interested in Moore (pun intended) about the § 965 transition tax?

Read “The Little Red Transition Tax Book“.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Part 49 – 2012 Report Of Congressional Research Service Suggests @USTransitionTax May Be Unconstitutionally Retroactive

Introduction and purpose

In an earlier post I argued that in the Moore appeal the Supreme Court should consider the retroactive nature of the MRT AKA transition tax. My argument was based my interpreting the law to be that retroactive legislation might be unconstitutional if it:

1. Was retroactive for an extensive period of time (in this case the period of retroactivity was 31 years); and

2. Was new legislation

After writing that post, I came across this 2012 Congressional Research Report which suggests that tax legislation could be unconstitutionally retroactive based on the same two principles.

A relevant excerpt from the report follows.

The 2012 Congressional Research Report: CRS Report for Congress Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress Constitutionality of Retroactive Tax Legislation

The following excerpt is of interest and relevance to the Moore appeal

Period of Retroactivity

The most common potential concern with respect to substantive due process is the length of the retroactivity. The Supreme Court has made clear that a modest retroactive application of tax laws is permissible, describing it as a “customary congressional practice” required by “the practicalities of producing national legislation.”9 As a result, tax legislation that is retroactive to the beginning of the year of enactment has routinely been upheld against due process challenges.10 There does not seem to be any serious question as to whether such a period of retroactivity is constitutional.

What then happens with periods of application that go beyond the year of enactment? The Court has upheld several tax laws where the period of retroactivity extended into the preceding calendar year.11 For example, in United States v. Carlton, the Court upheld the retroactive application of a federal estate tax provision that limited the availability of a recently added deduction for the proceeds of sales of stock to employee stock ownership plans. The deduction was added by the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which had not included a requirement that the taxpayer own the stock immediately prior to death. The lack of such a requirement essentially created a loophole that Congress fixed with the 1987 amendment. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 was enacted in October 1986, and the amendment was enacted in December 1987, to apply as if incorporated in the 1986 law. In upholding the 1987 law, the Court explained that the period of retroactivity was permissible since it was only slightly more than one year, as well as noting that the IRS had announced its concern with the original law as early as January 1987 and a bill to make the correction was introduced in Congress the very next month.12

However, it does appear that due process concerns may be raised by a more extended period of retroactivity. In Nichols v. Coolidge (one of the few cases where the Supreme Court struck down a retroactive tax on due process grounds),13 the Court disallowed the retroactive application of an estate tax provision that changed the tax treatment of a transfer 12 years after the transfer had occurred.14 The Court later unfavorably compared the 12-year period with periods where the “retroactive effect is limited.”15 This suggests that due process concerns are raised by an extended period of retroactivity. However, it is not clear how long a period might be constitutionally problematic. The Court has recognized retroactive liability for periods beyond one or two years in non-taxation contexts,16 but it is not clear how a similar situation arising under the tax laws would be addressed.

Reliance and Lack of Notice

One issue often raised is that it may seem unfair to change the tax laws once a taxpayer has done something based on the law as it existed at the time. The fact that taxpayers may have concluded a transaction in reliance on prior law is generally not important to the analysis as “reliance alone is insufficient to establish a constitutional violation.”17 As the Court has made clear, “[t]ax legislation is not a promise, and a taxpayer has no vested right in the Internal Revenue Code.”18 In other words,

Taxation is neither a penalty imposed on the taxpayer nor a liability which he assumes by contract. It is but a way of apportioning the cost of government among those who in some measure are privileged to enjoy its benefits and must bear its burdens. Since no citizen enjoys immunity from that burden, its retroactive imposition does not necessarily infringe due process….19

Additionally, lack of notice of the retroactive effect of a tax law is not dispositive of whether due process has been violated.20 Lack of notice may, nonetheless, be a concern when the retroactive legislation enacts a wholly new tax. This was the issue in two cases where the Court struck down retroactive tax legislation on due process grounds—Blodgett v. Holden and Untermyer v. Anderson.21 Both dealt with the constitutionality of retroactive application of the Revenue Act of 1924, which enacted the gift tax. The legislation was introduced in February 1924, enacted that June, and applied to gifts made after January 1, 1924. The taxpayer in Blodgett made a gift in January 1924, and the taxpayer in Untermyer made a gift in May 1924, while the bill was in conference. The plurality in Blodgett and the majority in Untermyer held the retroactive application was unconstitutional because it was arbitrary as the taxpayers made gifts without knowing they would subsequently be subject to tax.22 In such a situation, a taxpayer has “no reason to suppose that any transactions of the sort will be taxed at all.”23

The Court in later cases has clearly distinguished the two cases on the basis that they dealt with the “creation of a wholly new tax” and therefore “their authority is of limited value in assessing the constitutionality of subsequent amendments that bring about certain changes in operation of the tax laws.”24 Thus, while lack of notice is not dispositive, the Court has suggested that lack of notice may violate due process if the retroactive law creates a “wholly new tax.”

Since the two cases dealing with the creation of the gift tax, it does not appear the Court has found any other situations where lack of notice was an issue.25 In some instances, the Court determined the retroactive tax provision was not a wholly new tax, as with the provision in Carlton, which amended a new estate tax deduction that was enacted 14 months prior as part of a major overhaul of the tax code.26 Even in a case with what looked like a brand new tax—a tax on silver under the Silver Purchase Act—the Court upheld a 35-day period of retroactivity.27 In that case, the law was enacted on June 19, 1934, retroactive back to May 15, 1934. In upholding the law’s retroactive application, the Court suggested that taxpayers had sufficient notice since there had been pressure for legislation for months, the President had sent a message to Congress encouraging such a tax on May 15, and the bill that became the act was introduced on May 23. This suggests that it would be rare for a tax provision to be characterized as a “wholly new tax” so long as taxpayers were on some kind of notice that a tax might be imposed.

The full report is available here:

https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R42791.pdf

A pdf of the full report is here:

Retroactive Tax R42791

Interested in Moore about the § 965 transition tax?

Read “The Little Red Transition Tax Book“.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Part 48 – Discussing The @USTransitionTax and Moore With @FAIRTaxGuys of @FAIRTaxOfficial

Introduction – Previous Podcasts and Posts About The Fair Tax

I have previously written about the FAIR Tax as an alternative the existing income tax system. Basically, the FAIR Tax is a consumption based tax that would replace the income tax.

The Moore Appeal And The Income Tax

The Moore appeal is the most important case the U.S. Supreme Court has ever heard. The result will determine whether Congress can extinguish individual liberty under the guise of taxation.

At a minimum, the issue of whether Congress can tax unrealized income illuminates the evil and potential for weaponization and oppression the income tax affords. The FAIRTax is the only alternative.

During September of 2023 I had the opportunity to appear on Fair Tax Power Radio with Steve Hayes, Bob Scarborough and Bob Paxton.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Part 47 – Are Refunds For Payments Of The MRT Possible If The Moore Appeal Succeeds?

To file a protective refund claim or to not seek a refund, that is question …

Individuals who were subject to the 2017 965 Transition Tax would have responded (whether using the 962 election or not) to the tax obligation in one of two ways:

1. They would have paid the tax in full.

2. They would have chosen to pay the tax over the eight year instalment period.

The Supreme Court will hear the appeal in Moore. It is possible that the Court will issue a decision that means the MRT was unconstitutional with respect to (some or all) individual taxpayers. Are those individuals who paid the tax in full entitled to a refund?

An interesting post from U.S. tax lawyer Virginia La Torre Jeker provides a possible answer:

Virginia’s post (focusing on whether to file a protective refund claim) includes an excellent analysis. I highly recommend taking the time to read it. In relevant part she writes:

Here’s the law in a nutshell:

Section 965(k) provides the IRS 6 years to assess any transition tax that is owed. However, this 6-year statute only favors the IRS. Taxpayers seeking a refund are bound to Section 6511 which deals with refund claims. Pursuant to Section 6511(a) a taxpayer must file a refund claim by the later of 3 years of filing the tax return, or 2 years of paying the tax.

Lost Opportunity

Under the general refund claim rule, taxpayers that paid the full transition tax on their 2017 income tax return filed in 2018 (or 2018 tax return, filed in 2019, if they report on a fiscal year that is not a calendar year) will not be able to claim a refund. The time for claiming the refund expired in 2021 (or 2022 for fiscal year filers). Normally refund claims must be filed within 3 years of filing the tax return or 2 years from the date the tax was paid so these taxpayers are out of luck.

Clearly “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”!

Interested in Moore (pun intended) about the § 965 transition tax?

Read “The Little Red Transition Tax Book“.

John Richardson – Follow me on Twitter @Expatriationlaw

Part 44 – The Moores, Unrealized Income And Exporting US Taxes, Forms And Penalties To Residents Of Other Countries

Exporting U.S. taxes, forms and penalties to the residents of other countries

In the Moore appeal, the Supreme Court of the United States is charged with the task of determining whether “realization” is a necessary condition, for an “accession to wealth”, to qualify as “income” under the 16th Amendment. This broad question arises in the context of the Moores, who as “U.S. Shareholders” of a CFC, were subjected to the MRT which facilitated the double taxation of the Moores. The Moores, who reside in the United States, certainly have not and have no expectation of receiving a distribution from the India corporation. As problematic as the MRT was for the Moores, the MRT was far more devastating for Americans abroad, who were operating businesses that although “foreign to the United States”, were “local” to them. For the Moores their investment in the CFC represented an investment in a corporation that was “foreign” to both the Moores and the United States. Americans abroad were shareholders in CFCs (unlike the Moores and other resident Americans) that were “local” to them but foreign to the United States. In addition, for Americans abroad the CFC typically represents a pension/retirement planning vehicle. How can it be that the MRT could apply to individuals who live in other countries and are shareholders of corporations created in those countries? The answer is of course the extra-territorial application of the U.S. tax system to residents of other countries who happen to be U.S. citizens. In fact, the use of Canadian Controlled Private Corporations by dual US/Canada citizens living in Canada, demonstrates that it is possible for a U.S. citizen in Canada to be a shareholder in a Canadian corporation that would not qualify as CFCs if owned by U.S. residents.

The key takeaway is that the U.S. tax system, because of the extra-territorial tax regime (citizenship-based taxation) has a profoundly negative effect on individuals who are residents of other countries! U.S. tax law applies NOT only to U.S. residents but to residents of other countries who cannot demonstrate they are nonresident aliens. Therefore, a decision that the 16th Amendment does NOT require “realization” means that the U.S. will export the taxation of “unrealized income” to residents of other countries. The U.S. would tax the “unrealized income” of residents of other countries even when those other countries did not recognize the unrealized income as a taxable event!

In some circumstances the taxation of unrealized income would lead to double taxation. In other circumstances the taxation of unrealized income would frustrate the objectives of the tax policy of the other country. In many circumstances the taxation of “unrealized income” allows the United States to tax the wealth of other nations. It’s important to recognize that when the Supreme Court rules in the Moore appeal, it will also be deciding whether the U.S. can export the taxation of “unrealized income” to other countries! This has huge implications for both the residents and tax sovereignty of other countries.

Some EXISTING examples

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Part 42 – In Moore The Supreme Court Should Consider The Retroactive Nature Of The Transition Tax

Prologue – Taxation, Fairness And “The Man On The Street”

Imagine asking an individual (who was not a tax academic, lawyer or accountant) the following two questions:

1. Do you think that people should be forced to pay taxes on income never received?

2. Do you think people should be forced to pay taxes on income from the previous 30 years that they had never received?

The average person would be shocked by the possibility of this.

It may be difficult for the average person to understand Subpart F’s attribution of the income of a corporation to a shareholder. The average person would not doubt the unfairness of attributing 30 years of untaxed earnings of the corporation to the shareholder (especially when the income was never received by the shareholder).

Moore and Retroactivity – The Readers Digest Version

This history of the Moore case is described by Professors Brooks and Gamage as follows:

The taxpayers brought suit challenging the MRT, arguing that it was an unapportioned direct tax and therefore in violation of the Constitution.25 (They also argued that its seeming retroactivity was in violation of the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment,26 though this was not the main focus of the case, nor did the dissenters address it, nor do the petitioners raise the issue in the cert petition, so we put that claim aside.27) The district court dismissed the claim, and a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit unanimously affirmed the dismissal.28 The taxpayers’ subsequent petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc was denied.29

The Chamber of Commerce’s amicus cert brief filed on March 27, 2023 included on page 18:

The Constitution imposes numerous safeguards that prevent the government from making rapid changes that would unsettle expectations. Such principles “find[] expression in several [constitutional] provisions,” Landgraf v. USI Film Prods., 511 U.S. 244, 265 (1994), and often implicate tax laws.

First, “a retroactive tax provision [can be] so harsh and oppressive as to transgress the constitutional limitation” of due process. Carlton, 512 U.S. at 30. When “Congress act[s] promptly and establishe[s] only a modest period of retroactivity,” like “only slightly greater than one year,” a tax law’s retroactive effect has been deemed permissible. Id. at 32–33. But a tax law that deals with a “novel development” regarding “a transfer that occurred 12 years earlier” has been held unconstitutional. Id. at 34 (discussing Nichols v. Coolidge, 274 U.S. 531 (1927)). Here, of course, the Ninth Circuit called the MRT a “novel concept,” and it reached back—not one, not twelve—but more than thirty years into the past, long after companies made decisions about where to locate their long-term as- sets.2 App 6. The MRT’s aggressive retroactivity showcases the danger of unmooring income from its defining principle of realization. Erasing the realization requirement upends taxpayer expectations—leaving them looking over their shoulders for what unrealized gain Congress might next call “income.”

How “retroactivity” was considered by the District Court and the 9th Circuit

The District court specifically found that the transition tax was a retroactive tax, but ruled that the retroactivity did NOT violate the 5th Amendment. The 9th Circuit “assumed” (without considering) the retroactivity of the tax and like the District Court ruled that the retroactivity did NOT violate the 5th Amendment.

The Supreme Court granted the cert petition based only on the question of whether the 16th amendment requires income to be “realized”. The issue in Moore is whether 30 years of income realized by a CFC, never distributed to the US shareholder, and never previously taxable to the U.S. shareholder (under Subpart F) in that 30 year period, can be deemed to be “income” and taxed directly to the U.S. citizen shareholder in 2017.

Can a current attribution to a shareholder, of income earned by a corporation 30 years ago, meet the constitutional requirement of “income” under the 16th Amendment?

A ruling that 30 years of retroactive income could not qualify as 16th Amendment income might allow the court to:

1. Provide relief to the Moores (and other individual shareholders of CFCs); and

2. Avoid ruling on the broader and more general issue of realization.

Arguably a finding of “retroactivity” could mean that (whether realized or not), income earned by the CFC in the past 30 years cannot be considered to be current “income” under the 16th Amendment.

The purpose of this post is to focus on the issue of retroactivity. I do not believe that “retroactivity” was properly analyzed by either the District Court or 9th Circuit.

This post is divided into the following parts:

Part A – Introduction – Thinking about taxation of income
Part B – What is it about the “transition tax” that raises the question of retroactivity?
Part C – Retroactivity and the “Carlton” standard
Part D – Discussion of retroactivity: District Court Decision Moore
Part E – Discussion of retroactivity – 9th Circuit – Moore
Part F – Concluding thoughts …
Appendixes – Excerpts from relevant cases and articles
Appendix A – Excerpt from Hank Adler interview discussing the retroactive nature of the MRT
Appendix B – Moore District Court
Appendix C – Moore the 9th Circuit
Appendix D – Quarty
Appendix E – Justice Blackmun’s majority decision in Carlton
Appendix F – Justice O’Connor concurrence in Carlton
Appendix G – Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas in Carlton

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Part 41 – The Six Faces Of The 965 Transition Tax – The Ugliest Face Applies To Americans Abroad

Part I: Introduction – What Is The Transition Tax?

“Tell me who you are. Then I’ll tell you how the law applies to you!” I’ll also tell you whether you are a “winner” or a “loser” under this law.

At the end of 2017, Congress was enacting the TCJA. A major purpose of the TCJA was to lower U.S. corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%. This was a huge benefit to U.S. multinationals. One Congressional concern was how to find additional tax revenue in order to compensate the Treasury Department for the reduction in tax revenue which would result in lower receipts from corporations. Congress needed to find some additional tax revenue. They found this additional tax revenue by creating “new income” from the past and taxing that newly created income in the present. In fact, Congress said:

Let there be income! And there was income …

Significantly, Congress didn’t create any real income. No taxpayer actually received any income. The income created by Congress was not “real income”. Rather it was “deemed income”. But, this “deemed income” was intended to appear on tax returns. Real tax was payable on this “deemed” income.

Such, is the beginning of the story of the IRC 965 Transition Tax. The Transition Tax was a benefit to U.S. multinationals and destroyed the lives of individual U.S. citizens living outside the United States who organized their businesses, lives and retirement planning (as did their neighbours) through small business corporations.

This post identifies different groups impacted by the Transition Tax and the “winners” and “losers”.

Introducing the IRC 965 U.S. Transition Tax

26 U.S. Code § 965 – Treatment of deferred foreign income upon transition to participation exemption system of taxation

(a) Treatment of deferred foreign income as subpart F income

In the case of the last taxable year of a deferred foreign income corporation which begins before January 1, 2018, the subpart F income of such foreign corporation (as otherwise determined for such taxable year under section 952) shall be increased by the greater of—

(1) the accumulated post-1986 deferred foreign income of such corporation determined as of November 2, 2017, or
(2) the accumulated post-1986 deferred foreign income of such corporation determined as of December 31, 2017.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/965

Part II: The Reader’s Digest Version – The Six Faces Of The Transition Tax

The six “faces” of the 965 transition tax include the faces of five different kinds of “U.S. Persons”. The sixth face is the country where a U.S. citizen was living. Some are winners and some are losers. A list of winners and losers includes:

Three Winners

1. Winner: A U.S. C corp: Typically a U.S. multinational – Received value in return for being subjected to the transition tax

2. Winner: The individual shareholder of a U.S. S corp: Can opt to have the “deemed income inclusion” of 965 to NOT apply – Escaped the application of the transition tax

3. Winner: Green Card holder who is a “treaty nonresident”: Can escape U.S. taxation on “foreign source income – Escaped the application of the transition tax

Three Losers:

4. Loser: A U.S. resident individual (U.S. citizen or resident): The Moores – Subject to the transition tax, received nothing in return and likely subject to double taxation

5. Biggest Loser: A U.S. citizen living outside the United States who is a tax resident of another country: More of a loser than the Moore’s – what if the Moores had lived in British Columbia Canada? – Subject to the transition tax, received nothing in return, likely subject to double taxation on business income earned and retained by their “foreign corporation”. But unlike the Moore’s they live outside the United States as “tax residents” of another country. Unlike the Moore’s their CFC was likely not a simple investment in the shares of another company. Rather their CFC was likely the equivalent of a pension, created and encouraged by the tax laws of their country of residence. While the Moore’s experienced “double taxation” on an investment, the U.S. citizen abroad experienced the confiscation of their retirement pension. Individual shareholders of a CFC who live in the United States were affected quite differently from individual shareholders who live outside the United States.

6. Indirect Loser: The countries where overseas Americans are resident were also damaged by the transition tax: Many countries (example Canada) incentivize the creation of private pension plans through the use of private corporations. The effect of the transition tax was effectively to “loot” the retained earnings of those private corporations that were intended to be pension plans for residents of other countries. This is a particularly ugly manifestations of U.S. citizenship taxation and is a graphic example of how US citizenship taxation operates to extract working capital from other sovereign countries.

Significantly the biggest losers in the application of the 965 transition tax are Americans living outside the United States!

The transition tax confiscated the retained earnings of their local business corporations. Because they are tax residents of other countries, there was no prospect of the corporation’s earnings being repatriated to the United States. The corporation’s earnings were the pension/retirement plans for those individuals.

To put it simply:

The Treasury Department – via IRC 965 – effectively “looted” the retained earnings of small business corporations located outside the United States. The justification for the “looting” was that more than 50% of the shares were “owned” by U.S. citizens. The 2017 US Transition Tax was the ugliest face of the Transition Tax and a particularly ugly manifestation of U.S. citizenship taxation!

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Part 40 – The Moore @USTransitionTax Appeal: Unrealized Income And Attacking The “Wealth Of OTHER Nations”

Introduction

The Moore’s are U.S. residents who happen to be the U.S. shareholders of a CFC (“Controlled Foreign Corporation”). In basic terms, the Moore’s transition tax appeal is based on the fact that (1) although the Moore’s received no distribution from the CFC, they (2) were deemed to have received a distribution and required to treat the “deemed distribution” as U.S. taxable income. In other words, they paid “real tax” on “pretend income”. In a previous post I demonstrated how the “transition tax” AKA “repatriation tax” (taxation of “unrealized gains”) resulted in pure double taxation.

The double taxation caused by the transition tax was the result of:

1. The creation of a fictitious realization event which generated a U.S. tax before an actual realization event in India; coupled with

2. A later, ACTUAL realization event in India which generated an additional tax in India.

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Part 39 – The § 965 Transition Tax: Congress Said: “Let There Be Income And There Was Income”

Outline

Part A – Prologue And Introduction
Part B – A wealth tax may NOT be a 16th Amendment income tax
Part C – The identification of existing income, new income and retroactivity
Part D – “Deferred income”: A newly created form of income or previously existing income exempt from taxation
Part E – The Moore’s visit the Supreme Court Of The United States – The Government’s Response
Part F – Conclusion

Part A – Prologue And Introduction

The Moore transition tax appeal is about whether “income” under the 16th Amendment requires “realization” in order to qualify as income. Resolution of this issue requires an analysis of both the meaning of “income” (whatever “income” may mean) and whether “income” must be “realized” to meet constitutional requirements. Generally, the taxation of income receives its constitutional legitimacy because of the 16th amendment which reads:

The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

The 16th Amendment (1) creates the constitutional jurisdiction for Congress to tax “incomes” but (2) extends the constitutional jurisdiction to tax, ONLY to “income”.

The 16th Amendment does NOT say that Congress has the power to collect taxes on anything that Congress decides to designate as income. Rather the 16th Amendment specifies a tax on “income”. In this respect, the 16th Amendment implies that there are limitations on the kinds of “accessions to wealth, clearly realized, and over which the taxpayers have complete dominion” (or other events) that qualify as income. Something must have some objective characteristics in order to qualify as “income”. Perhaps an “event”. Perhaps an “accession to wealth”. Perhaps “realization”. Perhaps something else.

Income must meet some necessary and objective requirements

The word “income” (difficult as it may be to define) must have some “objective” limitation. Absent an “objective” limitation, Congress could simply “designate” anything as income and then impose taxation on it. Specifically legislating something as income is neither a necessary (See IRC § 61) nor sufficient condition (possibly the 965 transition tax) for something to objectively qualify as income. (That said, there are some who believe that there are no constitutional limitations on what Congress may define as income.)

Income must have some objective meaning and some objective limitation.

In summary:

To be taxable under the 16th Amendment, something must qualify as income.

Although income may not be possible to define with precision and certainty, there are certain things that clearly are NOT income.

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