Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Most Heavily-Cited Tax Cases

I previously blogged my friend and colleague Adam Steinman's work on the most frequently cited cases (The Irrepressible Myth of Celotex: Reconsidering Summary Judgment Burdens Twenty Years after the Trilogy, 63 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 81, 143-45 (2006)).  Adam published fascinating charts of the 15 most-cited cases by federal courts and tribunals and the 30 most-cited cases by federal and state courts and tribunals. There was not a tax case in the bunch, so I aked:

[W]hat are the most heavily cited tax cases? Is there any empirical work addressing the question? Comments are open.

In our Tax Stories book, we took a stab at identifying what we think are the ten most influential income tax cases of all time. Here is a back of the envelope calculation of the federal citations to the ten cases in Tax Stories:


In his latest article, The Pleading Problem, Adam updates and expands his chart to include the 50 most-cited Supreme Court cases by federal courts and tribunals.  The Top 5 are:

  1. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986) (117,580 citations)
  2. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986) (112,610)
  3. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986) (54,621)
  4. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957) (44,563)
  5. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973) (35,531)

Welch v. Helvering is the most-cited tax case and the only tax case to make the Top 50 list -- at #45 with 7,992 citations.

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If you're including the Tax Court in your calculations, you should probably also look at Cohan v. Commissioner, 39 F.2d 540 (2d Cir. 1930); my quick Westlaw search says that came up more than 2,600 times in the T.C. opinions and T.C. Memo. opinions. Sego v. Commissioner, 114 T.C. 604 (2000), and Goza v. Commissioner, 114 T.C. 176 (2000), also came up more than 500 times.

Posted by: Emily | Aug 12, 2009 5:44:56 AM