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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Tax History on the Web - from Joint Committee on Taxation

Discussions of tax reform tend to become repetitive decade after decade. For example, there have been discussions from at least the early 1980s on a possible federal VAT and it has been discussed every decade since (see "VAT Mania"). While government studies and reports can be found in federal depository libraries (such as at San Jose State), it isn't always easy. When more of this information can be added to the web - and particularly if easy to find, that is great! It is interesting to see what was being studied and debated decades ago.

Well, the Joint Committee on Taxation just announced this week that it has posted all of its reports since it was created back in 1926. Per their announcement (Press Release 03-11):

"The staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (the “Joint Committee”) today announces that it has posted to its website,, copies of most known Joint Committee publications from 1926, when the Joint Committee was created, through the present. The postings provide Congressional offices and the general public with a more complete and searchable set of documents relevant to the evolution of the Internal Revenue Code, than the Joint Committee previously had made available on its website."

This is a lot of information. One report I took a look at was tied to the Revenue Act of 1926. It notes that the duties of the JCT are:

(1) To investigate the operation and effects of the Federal system of internal revenue taxes.
(2) To investigate the administration of such taxes by the Bureau of Internal Revenue or any executive department, establishment, or agency charged with their administration.
(3) To make such other investigations in respect of such system of taxes as the joint committee may deem necessary.

The report briefly described 18 tentative projects. Number 18 involved cutting down on the number of "trivial" cases that went before the Board of Tax Appeals. Number 14 continues to be an interesting issue that comes up in discussions of estate tax reform. It reads:

A report on the extent of legal tax evasion through gifts and trusts as permitted under the present act.

"Note.-The revenue act is based not only on the principle of taxing the annual income of an individual or corporation, but it also taxes, in general, the appreciation in property accruing over a period of years in the year in which such profit is realized. When gifts are made or trusts established it is possible, however, to legally evade the tax which would normally accrue to the Government on the sale or other disposition of the property.

"A comparison of the taxes paid by John D. Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and by Henry Ford and Edsel Ford is sufficient to show that the loss in revenue from this exception is great. A study indicating the total loss in revenue from this exception to a tax on realized appreciation in property will be valuable."

You can find the link to the reports here.

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