Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



One of the most remarkable developments in state finance is the rapidity with which the retail sales tax has become the most important fixture in the revenue system. Practically unknown a quarter century ago, by five years later in 1935 the tax yielded $284 million, slightly less than 13 per cent of state tax collections --unemployment compensation taxes aside. Last year, state sales tax revenues amounted to $2.6 billion, or about 23 per cent of state tax collections. For the future the prospect is that sooner or later all but a few, if indeed not all the states, will be in this tax field.

A symposium on the subject is most timely, and the editors of the Vanderbilt Law Review and its contributors are to be congratulated on this undertaking. It is true that considerable progress has been made toward solving many of the problems found in the early days of the sales tax-- the taxation of sales involving interstate elements, the extent of the obligation of sellers to collect use taxes, and the tax status of sales on federal areas, to name but a few. Administrative methods have improved considerably and with few exceptions the tax has gradually won acceptance in the states where it is imposed. Nevertheless, there are a number of points where the statutes, inter-governmental relations and administrative methods may be substantially improved, and a review and reappraisal of the type that follows might well encourage an effort to achieve desirable improvements and refinements.