Washington Law Review


By the constitution of the United States, the Congress has power to lay and collect taxes, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States. The constitution, however, also contains the further provision that no capitation or other direct tax shall be laid unless apportioned among the states in proportion to the population as ascertained by a federal census. In the year 1895 in Pollock v. Farmers Loan & Trust Co., 157 U. S. 429, 158 U. S. 601, 39 L. Ed. 759, 39 L. Ed. 1108, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that an income tax is a direct tax and as a consequence that Congress could not impose such tax unless apportioned among the states. Soon after the enactment of the first statute, taxpayers residing in states where the system of community property prevails asserted that since husband and wife have an equal proprietary interest in such incomes as by state laws are defined to be community property, their federal income tax returns should truthfully reflect this joint ownership and that consequently husband and wife should file separate returns, each spouse accounting for the ownership of one-half of the entire community income.

First Page