Document Type


Repository Date



tax policy, taxation, rights and duties

Subject Categories

Constitutional Law | Law | Legislation | Taxation | Tax Law


Poll taxes are unconstitutional and yet Americans continue to link political rights to economic status. When taxpayers claim, "We pay taxes and therefore should decide how public monies are spent," they claim a privileged position in society based on their monetary contributions to the state and federal fiscal position that, by implication, nontaxpaying Americans should not have. Not only do taxpayers claim they deserve special political privileges, but the law itself continues to couple political rights to taxpaying status in ways that legal scholars have largely left unexplored. This article examines a range of political benefits tied to the payment of federal taxes and concludes that various Tax Code provisions and judicial doctrines operate as a fee for political expression. In particular, the presidential election check-off, various tax benefits, and the taxpayer standing doctrine devised (and later revised) by the Supreme Court in Flast v. Cohen all function as hidden poll taxes in violation of current constitutional principles. This article investigates two legal reforms that would remedy the perceived constitutional infringements: Congress and the Court could repeal and overturn laws that award political benefits based on taxpaying status, thereby denying all individuals the benefits, alternatively, lawmakers could retain the existing legal benefits but link them to citizenship status rather than to taxpaying status. Practical and normative considerations will lead to preferring one approach over the other in each context, accordingly, this article explores the relevant factors and reaches tentative conclusions as to which approach should be pursued.