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Supreme Court Cases

Stanton v. Baltic Mining Co. (1916)

This case stated that the provisions of the 16th Amendment gave no new power of taxation to the federal government.

But, aside from the obvious error of the proposition, intrinsically considered, it manifestly disregards the fact that, by the previous ruling, it was settled that the provisions of the Sixteenth Amendment conferred no new power of taxation, but simply prohibited the previous complete and plenary power of income taxation possessed by Congress from the beginning from being taken out of the category of indirect taxation to which it inherently belonged…

Gould v. Gould (1917)

In the interpretation of taxing statutes the government is unsupported in extending powers past the clear language of the law. When the government’s power to tax is questioned, the court is to strongly favor the citizen.

In the interpretation of statutes levying taxes, it is the established rule not to extend their provisions by implication beyond the clear import of the language used, or to enlarge their operations so as to embrace matters not specifically pointed out. In case of doubt, they are construed most strongly against the government and in favor of the citizen.

Fox v. Standard Oil Co. (1935)

If a glossary of terms is provided with a law, the definitions of the terms listed override their typical meaning.

In such circumstances definition by the average man or even by the ordinary dictionary with its studied enumeration of subtle shades of meaning is not a substitute for the definition set before us by the lawmakers with instructions to apply it to the exclusion of all others. … There would be little use in such a glossary if we were free in despite of it to choose a meaning for ourselves.

Hooven & Allison Co. v. Evatt (1945)

The term “United States” can mean…

  • The nation of the United States, as opposed to other nations.
  • Territories over which the United States government is sovereign.
  • In a constitutional sense, the states, which are united.

The term “United States” may be used in any one of several senses. It may be merely the name of a sovereign occupying the position analogous to that of other sovereigns in the family of nations. It may designate the territory over which the sovereignty of the United States extends, or it may be the collective name of the states which are united by and under the Constitution.

Meese v. Keene (1987)

It is self-evident that in regard to the law, a definition of a term excludes unstated meanings.

Nor do we agree with the District Court’s assertion that Congress’ use of the term “political propaganda” was “a wholly gratuitous step designed to express the suspicion with which Congress regarded the materials.” … It is axiomatic that the statutory definition of the term excludes unstated meanings of that term. … As judges, it is our duty to construe legislation as it is written, not as it might be read by a layman, or as it might be understood by someone who has not even read it.

Quoted in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000)

When a statute includes an explicit definition, we must follow that definition, even if it varies from that term’s ordinary meaning. Meese v. Keene, 481 U. S. 465, 484-485 (1987) (“It is axiomatic that the statutory definition of the term excludes unstated meanings of that term”); Colautti v. Franklin, 439 U. S., at 392-393, n. 10 (“As a rule, ‘a definition which declares what a term “means” … excludes any meaning that is not stated’ “)

Helvering v. Morgan’s, Inc. (1934)

While the term “includes” may sometimes be taken as synonymous with “means,” it may be used also as the equivalent of “comprehends” or “embraces.” Therefore, under § 200(a), the phrase “taxable year” may, where the context requires it, be taken to embrace all fractional parts of the taxable year;

Hoffman v. United States (1951)

Forcing Americans to submit an income tax form violates their Fifth Amendment right to refrain from providing any information to the government that could be used against them in prosecution.

(a) The privilege against self-incrimination guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment extends not only to answers that would in themselves support a conviction under a federal criminal statute, but also to those which would furnish a link in the chain of evidence needed to prosecute the claimant for a federal crime. Blau v. United States, 340 U. S. 159. P. 341 U. S. 486.

United States v. Miller (1976)

Information on documents voluntarily given to banks and seen by their employees in regular business isn’t protected by the Fourth Amendment, and sharing information with a third party (such as a bank) removes the expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment.

(b) There is no legitimate “expectation of privacy” in the contents of the original checks and deposit slips, since the checks are not confidential communications, but negotiable instruments to be used in commercial transactions, and all the documents obtained contain only information voluntarily conveyed to the banks and exposed to their employees in the ordinary course of business. The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the obtaining of information revealed to a third party and conveyed by him to Government authorities.