Michael Hatfield, Legal Ethics and Federal Taxes, 1945-1965: Patriotism, Duties, and Advice, 12 Fla. Tax Rev. 1 (2012), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/363
Florida Tax Review
ethics, tax lawyers
This article is devoted to exploring the legal ethics writings by tax lawyers in a pivotal period of income tax history: 1945-1965, the first two decades of the federal income tax as we now know it. Although the income tax began in 1913, it was World War II that created the modem mass income tax: in 1939 there were 3.9 million individual income tax taxpayers but by 1945 there were 42.6 million. This period was also one of significant progress in the administration of the income tax: the Internal Revenue Code was re-organized in 1954 and, following widespread corruption scandals, the Bureau of Internal Revenue was re-organized as the Internal Revenue Service. Thus, the tax lawyers writing on ethics issues during this period were the first generation to be considering the role of the tax lawyer in the modem tax system. Perhaps the most importance difference between the income tax system then and now is that the system then enjoyed broad-based and bi-partisan support while imposing an extremely high top-end marginal rate of taxation (91-94 percent for most of this period).
This Article is divided into two primary sections. Part II is a description of literature of the era, and Part III is a reflection on the literature. Part II has several parts. It introduces the writers (II.A) and describes their philosophical professionalism (II.B) and the patriotic tone of their writings (I.C). It then describes their debates over a special duty to the system (II.D) and disclosing arguable points in a tax return (II.E). It concludes with their practical advice for tax lawyers (II.F) and their policy suggestions for the tax system (II.G). The reflective Part II provides historical context and connections between topics that may not otherwise be evident.