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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Katz on The Art of Taxation

Katz Tax_lawyer_3Farley P. Katz (Partner, Strasburger & Price, San Antonio) has published The Art of Taxation: Joseph Hemard’s Illustrated Tax Code, 60 Tax Law. 163 (2006).  Here is the Introduction:

Tax codes are notoriously dull reading. They are devoid of interest to anyone but professionals trained in the arcane language of the tax laws who, even then, never actually consult them except when required by a specific task at hand. The idea of a lengthy, commercially published tax code, profusely illustrated with humorous cartoon-like drawings full of puns and whimsy, with illustrations beautifully hand printed in color, seems almost unimaginable. But such an incredible book exists! Add to this the facts that the book was printed in occupied Paris near the end of World War II and that it contains numerous risqué and decidedly antiauthoritarian images, and one begins to appreciate how truly fantastic this book is.

The Code Général des Impôts Directs et Taxes Assimilées (General Code of Direct and Related Taxes) (Fig. 1), illustrated by the prolific book illustrator Joseph Hémard, was published on February 15, 1944, a mere six months before the liberation of Paris.

The book was a joint venture of two publishers, Éditions Littéraires et Artistiques and La Libraire “Le Tryptique” (The Triptych Bookshop), and printed by the company E. Desfossés. It is in octavo format, about 6.4 by 9.3 inches, and contains ten preliminary pages followed by 330 numbered pages and one unnumbered page with a “limitation notice” stating the number and types of copies issued, and was issued with printed paper covers as is typical of European books. The text consists of national, regional, and local tax laws of France, divided into three main divisions or “books,” containing a total of over 419 articles. At the end is a glossary of tax terms, with amusing definitions possibly written by Hémard himself. The tax laws included run the entire spectrum from income taxes on businesses and salaries of individuals, to property taxes on real and personal property, to taxes on mines and trade license fees, to taxes on mortmains (lands held by ecclesiastical and other entities), and even to municipal taxes on dogs. The text also includes administrative provisions and punishments.

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