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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Zelenak: Congress, Treasury, And The Design Of The Early Modern Income Tax

LZelenakawrence Zelenak (Duke), Figuring Out the Tax: Congress, Treasury, and the Design of the Early Modern Income Tax (Cambridge University Press 2018):

Figuring Out the Tax recounts the forgotten early development of the federal income tax in the US, resulting from the interplay between Congress and the Treasury Department in the decades following the enactment of the tax in 1913. It covers a wide range of topics including the income tax treatments of marriage, capital losses, charitable contributions and homeownership, as well as the rise, demise and resurrection of income tax withholding. Lawrence Zelenak deftly illustrates how the income tax achieved its current form through a range of stories which are new to tax history scholarship and involve some remarkable personalities and surprising plot twists. Although of particular interest to tax academics and professionals, this book will also serve as a useful introduction to the development of income tax for undergraduate students and law students.

  • Recounts important developments in the early history of the income tax utilising new material which is not covered in existing tax history scholarship
  • Adopts a chronological narrative approach, making for an entertaining read
  • Does not assume any particular background in income tax law and will be accessible to a general readership with an interest in income tax

Who would have thought that a tax book can be so much fun?! Part tax history, part a comedy of errors, Zelenak's story about the emergence and development of the American tax system is a joy to read. It holds lessons for policymakers, offers ideas to academics, and helps taxpayers to form an informed opinion of what a good tax system should look like.
Alex Raskolnikov, Wilbur H. Friedman Professor of Tax Law, Columbia Law School

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