Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Throughout the United States a great many municipalities have found that in recent years their revenue from taxes has not kept up with their expenses. While inflation spiralled municipal costs, while demands for municipal services increased terrifically during the last few" decades, and while financial burdens, such as the three-platoon fire department, were readily imposed upon the municipal corporations by the state legislatures, the tax bases available to municipalities were too often insufficient to meet the expanding local requirements. Older taxes, such as the tax upon real property, have proved more and more inadequate as residents moved beyond city limits, not only thereby depriving the municipalities of property taxes but often leaving behind only greatly depreciated properties. At the same time municipal corporations found many sources of tax revenue being preempted by the federal and state governments. Lastly, the municipal corporations have quite generally been underrepresented in state legislatures with an unhappy effect upon applications for new powers to tax. Basically, then, municipal corporations are inhibited in raising revenue by taxes first of all by lack of power and, secondly, by the force and effect of federal and state constitutional limitations. This paper is devoted to a study of the principles governing municipal power to tax and its constitutional limitations.