Tax law is the codified system of laws that describes government levies on economic transactions, commonly called taxes.
In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It empowered Congress to tax “incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” The Internal Revenue Code is today embodied as Title 26 of the United States Code (26 U.S.C.) and is a lineal descendant of the income tax act passed in 1913, following ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment. While some states do not have an income tax (Nevada), all residents and all citizens of the United States are subject to the federal income tax. Not everyone, however, must file a return. The requirements for filing are found in 26 U.S.C. § 6011. As the largest contributor, its purpose is to generate revenue for the federal budget.
One of the oldest and most common forms of taxation is the taxation of property held by an individual at the time of their death. Such a tax can take the form, among others, of estate tax (a tax levied on the estate before any transfers). An estate tax is a charge upon the decedent’s entire estate, regardless of how it is disbursed. An alternative form of death tax is an inheritance tax (a tax levied on individuals receiving property from the estate). Taxes imposed upon death provide incentive to transfer assets before death.
Gift tax laws are generally designed to prevent complete tax avoidance by this route. The Federal Estate Tax is integrated with the Federal Gift tax so that large estates cannot be shielded from taxation by lifetime giving. Many states also impose an estate tax.
Taxes are sometimes classified as either specific or ad valorem. Specific taxes are of a fixed amount based on a number, or standard of weight or measurement. Ad valorem taxes are based on a fixed proportion of the value of the property with respect to which the tax is assessed. They require an appraisal of the taxable subject matter’s worth. General property taxes are almost invariably of this second type — ad valorem. Ad valorem property taxes are based on ownership of the property, and are payable regardless of whether the property is used or not and whether it generates income for the owner (although these factors may affect the assessed value).