Does Congress Have the Authority to Tax Americans At Different Rates?

The 16th Amendment gave the Federal Government the authority and power to tax every citizen. Here’s the wording of the Amendment:

“The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

Please note that there is no provision in this amendment that Congress is given the right to unequally apply this power. In looking over all the Constitution’s amendments, I don’t see an unequal distribution of either a freedom or limitation.

Equality under the law requires that as each of us stands before the courts or the Constitution, no one should be treated in an unequal way. The law applies to every citizen equally, except, it seems, when it comes to apply the 16th Amendment.

Does the First Amendment parcel out its freedoms in percentages? Doesn’t every person have the same right to speak, write, and assemble? Rich people and poor people have the same percentage of these rights — 100 percent. The same is true of religion. In constitutional terms, all religions are to be treated equally.

The same is true of the Second Amendment. Everybody has a right to “keep and bear arms” at the same rate. Rich people and poor people have a right to purchase as many guns as they want. Because the rich can afford more guns does not mean that they have to pay more for those guns.

The quartering of troops is similarly equal in the distribution that “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.” No one could argue that because rich people have larger houses that they should be required to open their house to soldiers.

The same is true about the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendments. Read them over and try to apply the percentage differences to them like Congress and the President do with the 16th Amendment.

The 8th Amendment might apply in the case of increased percentages in taxation because the practice could be considered to be “cruel and unusual punishment.” Liberals regard taxation at ever higher rates as punitive. High taxes are designed to punish the rich. Sen. Rand Paul notes the law of diminishing returns on raising taxes. Taxation is not about increased revenue:

“You may not get any more revenue. You may not get any more economic growth. But you can say, ‘I stuck it to the rich people.’”

A progressive income tax is “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The 14th Amendment could also apply. No State "shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." "Equal protection." Our government is not permitted to treat people in an unequal manner. In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Justice John Marshall Harlan argued the following in his "Great Dissent":

"[I]n view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful."

The rich are considered a "class" in American politics. We speak of "class warfare" on a regular basis. Why are the rich classes treated unequally when it comes to legislative law? The taxation of income at unequal levels deprives people of liberty and property.

All we need now is some lawyer or group of lawyers to make this point in the courts. We need to have the same fortitude as those who have worked for decades to overturn capital punishment.


About Gary DeMar
Gary is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and earned his M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1979. He is the author of countless essays, news articles, and more than 27 book titles.