Tax Law

Tax law is the body of rules that determine how much a public authority has a right to claim from taxpayers. It includes laws that govern corporations as well as those that apply to individuals. The laws vary by country, but they generally have common elements.


You can find resources on tax law at many different databases. Some are free for Harvard and HLS-affiliates, others require a subscription.

Constitutional limitations

The Constitution places several limits on Congress’s taxing power. For instance, it states that “No Capitation or other direct Tax shall be laid unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.” In addition, the Constitution prohibits the levying of taxes on articles exported from a state.

These limitations have been established by case law. For example, in United States v. Meredith, the Ninth Circuit affirmed Lynne Meredith’s conviction for violating federal tax laws by operating businesses that sold books and conducted seminars on how to avoid paying income taxes. She was sentenced to 121 months in prison for her role in promoting the scheme. The court reasoned that the IRS is a government agency, and thus it has the authority to enforce federal tax laws.

Some people claim that compelled compliance with federal tax laws is a form of involuntary servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. However, courts have ruled that this argument is frivolous. Moreover, the First Amendment protects commercial speech, including the promotion of abusive tax avoidance schemes. This includes promoting false forms of 1099-OID, which are used to conceal the true source of taxable income. Consequently, courts have affirmed the validity of federal tax penalties for false returns and other violations of tax laws. Furthermore, a taxpayer can be held in contempt for failing to comply with tax laws.

International treaties

A tax treaty is an agreement between two countries that affects the income taxes of both parties. A treaty may be multilateral or bilateral. It may also be called an international convention, final act, covenant, memorandum of understanding, charter, protocol, pact, or accord. Whether or not a tax treaty is binding on a country depends on how that country views the terms of the treaty in relation to its domestic laws. Generally, if a treaty is a source of law that conflicts with a statute the treaty takes precedence.

There are three major models for tax treaties: the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development model; the United States model; and the U.N model. The OECD model includes provisions that limit double taxation and provide credit provisions to avoid conflicting domestic laws. The United States model includes similar provisions but provides a more robust nondiscrimination policy. The U.N model is intended to help developing nations negotiate more effective tax treaties.

Tax practitioners need to be familiar with these agreements, and with the underlying legal and political framework of each. To make sense of these documents, attorneys should use the scholarly literature on the subject and expert practice tools, such as VitalLaw for Tax Law’s International Tax Suite. The suite provides access to comprehensive research and news coverage on the subject of tax treaties and their effect on domestic law. It also contains useful practice tools, such as the Tax Treaty Withholding Rate Decision Tool and Permanent Establishment Smart Charts.


Tax laws must be within reasonable bounds so that a government can tax its citizens and businesses without crossing the line to oppressive levels of taxation. This is why they are often governed by constitutional limitations. Tax law is also a complex area of law that can change often. There are numerous entities that create and enforce tax laws, including local governments, regional government agencies, state governments and the federal government. This makes the area of tax law one of the most complicated in modern society.

The United States Constitution gives Congress the power to enact tax laws. These laws are contained in the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and other documents. A complete electronic version of the tax code is available on the Internet. In addition, tax laws are contained in codes sections, regulations, policy statements and private letter rulings issued by the IRS.

Some people believe that the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution authorizes a direct non-apportioned income tax on all United States citizens and residents. This is a claim that has been rejected by many courts. However, some people may use it as a political tool to try to defeat the Sixteenth Amendment and other changes to tax laws.


Taxpayers are affected by the laws that govern how and when taxes are collected and how much is owed. These laws also affect how taxpayers can claim deductions and credits. The laws are different from country to country, but most include provisions that ensure the rights of taxpayers. These rights include limiting the amount of property that can be taxed, ensuring that the tax is proportional to the value of the item being taxed, and preventing discrimination between similar items.

Taxes are a necessary part of every country’s economy. These funds help the government invest in infrastructure and facilitate economic development. However, the burden of taxes should be limited so that it does not become oppressive. This is why many countries have constitutional limitations on taxation. In addition, the law must protect the right of equality between citizens.

The laws that govern taxation are complex, and the taxation process is always changing. It is important to understand the laws in order to minimize your tax liability and avoid committing any violations.

The Rutgers Library has a variety of electronic resources that can be used for research on taxation issues. These include Lexis, Westlaw, CCH’s Intelliconnect, and BNA’s Tax and Accounting Center. Students have access to these resources through their HOLLIS or HLSMe credentials. The library also has print books on taxation, including the US Tax Reporter and the Weekly Tax Notes.