Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Andrew Mellon's Tax Trial

Gerard Magliocca (Indiana-Indianapolis), Andrew Mellon's Tax Trial:

MellonContinuing with "Article Ideas for Anyone Who Wants Them," I give you the tax trial of former Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon in the mid-1930s.

Andrew Mellon was one of America's leading bankers. In 1921, he became the Treasury Secretary and held that post for 11 years under three different Republican Presidents. Mellon was the most influential Treasury Secretary other than Hamilton, and became identified with the policies that led to the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. ... 

After he left office, the DOJ sought to indict Mellon on tax fraud charges. A grand jury refused to return a true bill (by an 11-10 vote). Then a civil tax trial ensued, with Robert Jackson (in his first big government post) making the government's case. This was a big media event at the time, which ended with Mellon's estate paying several hundred thousand dollars in back taxes.

I've thought of this example in the past few years when people say that in America we don't use law enforcement to go after political enemies. While that's generally true, there are some notable counterexamples. Mellon's case may be one, as there is some evidence that he was targeted by the Roosevelt Administration because he was a high-profile Republican Cabinet officer. ...

A tax scholar and a con law scholar should get together and write this paper.

For more, see:

Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink


Link to Board of Tax Appeals opinion, Mellon v. Commissioner, 36 B.T.A. 977 (B.T.A. 1937):

Posted by: Tu Phat | Aug 11, 2020 4:35:44 PM

I think a great tax scholar has already done this. See George Yin, "James Couzens, Andrew Mellon, the 'Greatest Tax Suit in the History of the World,' and Creation of the Joint Committee on Taxation and Its Staff, 66 Tax L. Rev. 787 (2013), available at

Posted by: bryan | Aug 11, 2020 2:50:35 PM