Is a National Sales Tax Constitutional?


Over on the Member Feed, ShellGamer raises the question of the hour: Is a national sales tax constitutional?

In a word: yes.

The textual provisions that are under discussion are among the most obscure in the Constitution; but the drift since Pollack v. Farmer’s Loan, which struck down the income tax, is not.  Essentially the modern regime is that anything goes.  The Sixteenth Amendment reads as follows:

The Congress shall have 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.

This provision is intended to overturn the specific objection to the tax struck down in Pollock v. Farmer’s Loan and Trust.  But right out of the box, all objections to progressive taxation were regarded as settled in favor of allowing that practice.  The uniformity provision has suffered a similar fate.  It only applies to geographical uniformity, and even in that situation it is treated as a weak presumption that the federal government can overcome on a showing of some need for an exception.  That was the case with the windfall profits tax, an excise tax that was upheld, even though Alaskan oil was exempt.  One can argue about the theory, but as a matter of current constitutional law, virtually any scheme of general taxation is constitutional.  It is yet another legacy of the Progressive Era.

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There is 1 comment.

  1. Member

    That line can make one squirm a bit, ie… As a matter of current constitutional law, virtually any scheme of general taxation is constitutional.

    To understand any constraints on this would require an amendment, which in and of itself is nearly implauasible. Let alone gathering any agreement that parties would allow to be written in stone so to speak.

    Would like to see a few proposals and or resolutions from greater minds. That includes game changers, Anyone ?

    • #1
    • October 20, 2011, at 5:16 AM PDT
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