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Pervasive Judicial Doctrines in the Construction of the Internal Revenue Code, 21 Howard Law Journal 693 (1978)


During the nineteenth century, the practice of construing taxing
statutes strictly against the government was said to be "founded so
firmly upon principles of equity and natural justice as not to admit
reasonable doubt."l As explained by Mr. Justice Story in 1842:

In every case . . . of doubt, [taxing] statutes are construed
most strongly against the government, and in favor of the subjects
or citizens, because burdens are not to be imposed, nor presumed
to be imposed, beyond what the statutes expressly and clearly import.
Revenue statutes are in no just sense either remedial laws or
laws founded upon any permanent public policy, and therefore
are not to be liberally construed.

This approach, which bracketed taxing statutes with laws imposing
criminal penalties or forfeitures, was not without challenge even in
its heyday, and by now has been largely abandoned.

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