Vanderbilt Law Review

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In Department of Revenue of Montana v. Kurth Ranch' the United States Supreme Court held, for the first time, that a state tax statute violated the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Federal Constitution. The future impact of this decision has been the subject of much recent speculation. In particular, commentators have debated Kurth's effect on the civil consequences labeled "additions to tax' found in the Internal Revenue Code which are assessed and collected in connection with criminal taxpayer fraud. These additions were examined in Helvering v. Mitchell over fifty years ago, and up-held against a double jeopardy challenge. However, the continuing validity of Mitchell is questionable in light of the Court's decision in Kurth. The Kurth majority expressly cited Mitchell as justification for subjecting a tax statute to double jeopardy analysis. Moreover, the reasoning and language in Kurth itself, when applied to the current equivalent of the addition to tax upheld in Mitchell, arguably invalidates the provision.

In order to demonstrate the potentially broad scope of the Kurth decision, this Recent Development will show how the Kurth reasoning could invalidate additions to tax for fraud under a double jeopardy challenge. This Recent Development will first briefly discuss the facts and procedural history of Kurth. Part III will examine the history of the Double Jeopardy Clause, especially in the area of parallel civil and criminal proceedings, and will briefly survey the Supreme Court's past treatment of constitutional challenges to tax statutes. Part IV will then detail each decision handed down by the Supreme Court in its disposition of Department of Revenue of Montana v. Kurth Ranch. Part V will focus on additions to tax for fraud and Kurth's effect on the constitutionality of such additions under the Double Jeopardy Clause.

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