Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Winchester: A Simple Tax Case Complicated By Race

Richard Winchester (Seton Hall; Google Scholar), A Simple Tax Case Complicated by Race, 21 Pitt. Tax Rev. __ (2023):

Pittsburgh tax reviewScholars and policymakers have begun to consider the racial inequities that are imbedded in the U.S. tax system. Most research addresses the racially inequitable design of the tax code or some of the racially inequitable practices that the I.R.S. employs to administer the code. However, virtually no scholarship addresses the role of the courts. This Article addresses that omission by using a little-known case to show that judges are not immune from allowing race to affect their judgments in tax cases and the ramifications that follow when they do so. The case involves the white builder of a segregated Black community who sold some undeveloped land that was originally intended to be part of the subdivision.

The judge had to determine whether the profits from the sale had to be taxed at ordinary rates or as a long-term capital gain. Although the operative rule makes no reference to race, the judge used the racial identity of the homebuyers as a central part of his analysis. This Article will examine the court’s reasoning and its implications.

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