Issues of Taxation Will Be Key to Supreme Court’s Future

September 14, 2005

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is conducting confirmation hearings for John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. While much of the discussion will center on social issues, it is important to note that issues of commerce dominate the agenda of the high court. Given the two current vacancies, it is important to consider the possible impact of future decisions concerning taxation, both immediate and down the road.

For starters, one of the first decisions of the new Supreme Court will be to decide whether or not to hear the case of Charlotte Cuno v. Daimler Chryler Corp., which involves the issue of tax competition among states and preserving federalism in our government. The Tax Foundation’s Chris Atkins has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court recommending review.

Beyond the 2005-06 term, issues of authority of taxation are likely to emerge as our economy continues to move into an information age and one in which geography is less a factor in trade. As new technologies emerge, certain “old” taxes may no longer apply or offer significant disadvantages to certain consumers, firms, or governments, forcing the court to mediate.

While we at the Tax Foundation take no position on judicial appointments, we were encouraged by Roberts’ preventing of unnecessary government spending as President Reagan’s Solicitor General in this humorous exchange cited by the New York Times (Registration required):

A persistent entrepreneur, Ray E. Minter of Grand Prairie, Tex., presented Mr. Reagan with a print of an American eagle, for which the president thanked him in a brief note. Mr. Minter took this as an opening to, as he put it in a follow-up letter to the White House, “make a buck” by selling the government thousands of copies of the picture to place in every federal building in the country.

The matter landed on Mr. Roberts’s desk in May 1983, and he advised Mr. Fielding: “We appear to have a live one on the line in Mr. Minter, and rather than reeling him in I think it would be better simply to cut the line: no response.”

Related Articles