Wednesday, February 29, 2012
This paper describes the origins of the U.S. Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) and its staff. The JCT was created in 1926 to help address weaknesses in the nation’s fledgling income tax that were exposed during World War I. One of the House’s responses to the problems was to propose formation of a temporary “Joint Commission on Taxation,” consisting of members of Congress and the public, whose principal responsibility would be to provide simplification recommendations. This proposal was reshaped by the Senate following a bitter, public feud between Senator James Couzens (R.-Mich.) and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon that led to a controversial (and ultimately revealing) investigation by the Senate of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (predecessor to the modern-day IRS). In the process, the JCT proposal became intertwined with two of the most contentious tax issues of the day — the publicity of tax return information and the percentage depletion allowance for oil and gas production. In a final section, the paper considers whether the proposed creation of the JCT was a serious legislative initiative or a sham.