TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Court: Tax Code "Incomprehensible" Without Assistance of Tax Expert

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Great tax quote from the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in an unpublished decision, Donahue's Accounting & Tax Service, S.C. v. Ryno, No. 03-1891, 2004 WI App 21 (Dec. 17, 2003):

It is obvious to this court that the IRC is incomprehensible without the assistance of a qualified expert in tax law. This conclusion is best supported by a short and snappy comment from Justice Jackson, once Chief Counsel for the IRS, in a dissenting opinion in Arrowsmith v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 344 U.S. 6, 12 (1952), where he referred to federal taxation as "a field beset with invisible boomerangs."

One of America's most respected jurists, Judge Learned Hand, offers a more thoughtful observation on the law of taxation:

Photo of Judge Learned HandIn my own case the words of such an act as the Income Tax ... merely dance before my eyes in a meaningless procession; cross-reference to cross-reference, exception upon exception--couched in abstract terms that offer no handle to seize hold of--leave in my mind only a confused sense of some vitally important, but successfully concealed, purport, which it is my duty to extract, but which is within my power, if at all, only after the most inordinate expenditure of time. I know that these monsters are the result of fabulous industry and ingenuity, plugging up this hole and casting out that net, against all possible evasion; yet at times I cannot help recalling a saying of William James about certain passages of Hegal: that they were no doubt written with a passion of rationality; but that one cannot help wondering whether to the reader they have any significance save that the words are strung together with syntactical correctness. Ruth Realty Co. v. Horn, 222 Or. 290, 353 P.2d 524, 526 n. 2 (Or.1960) (citing 57 Yale L.J. 167, 169 (1947)), ov'd on other grounds by Parr v. DOR, 276 Or. 113, 553 P.2d 1051 (Or.1976).
Tip of the hat to this month's Shop Talk column in the Journal of Taxation)

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This is a step in the right direction!
And I love the judge's name.

Posted by: Fausta | Jul 27, 2004 5:12:34 AM

Does this mean that Daubert will apply to tax cases?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Jul 27, 2004 7:41:34 AM