Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The use tax was conceived as a necessary supplement to the successful administration of the sales tax. With a use tax, in addition to a sales tax, legislators felt they had developed a taxing method that was symmetrical and complete.

Thus, if for some reason a sale at retail of tangible personal property escaped tax, "the use, the consumption, the distribution, and the storage [of the property would be taxed] after it has come to rest in this state and has become a part of the mass of property in this state."'

But as the poet Robert Burns intimated about the best laid plans, the perfect scheme proved to be imperfect. For out of the relationship between the sales tax and the use tax, problems arose, mainly of two types--the constitutionality of the statute or of its application and the administration and collection of the tax with particular emphasis on the combating of tax evasion. No one had anticipated that different kinds of governmental units would adopt and administer different kinds of so-called "sales" taxes at different rates, some with and some without use taxes, but, as a matter of fact, the sales-use tax did spread throughout the country in accordance with no pattern and with no over-all planning.