Taxation “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “taxation” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition), Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition), and Webster’s Dictionary (1828):





The assessment and collection of taxes, a power and process by which the sovereign raises revenue to defray the necessary expenses of government, apportioning the cost of government among those who in some measure are privileged to enjoy its benefits and must bear its burdens [Messer v. Lang, 129 Fla 546, 176, 113 ALR 1073]. An act of sovereignty to be performed, so far as it conveniently can be, with justice and equality to all [Union Pass. R. Co. v. Philadelphia, 101 US 528, 25 L Ed 912]. Graphically, but realistically stated, obtaining the greatest amount of feathers with the least squawking.

See tax.




The imposition of a tax; the act or process of imposing and levying a pecuniary charge or enforced contribution, ratable, or proportioned to value or some other standard, upon persons or property, by or on behalf of a government or one of its divisions or agencies, for the purpose of proving revenue for the maintenance and expenses of government.

  • The term “taxation,” both in common parlance and in the laws of the several states, has been ordinarily used, not to express the idea of the sovereign power which is exercised, but the exercise of that power for a particular purpose, viz., to raise a revenue for the general and ordinary expenses of the government, whether it be the state, county, town, or city government. But there is another class of expenses, also of a public nature, necessary to be provided for, peculiar to the local government of counties, cities, towns, and even smaller sub-divisions, such as opening, grading, improving in various ways, and repairing, highways and streets, and constructing sewers in cities, and canals and ditches for the purpose of drainage in the country. They are generally of peculiar local benefit. These burdens have always, in every state, from its first settlement, been charged upon the localities benefited, and have been apportioned upon various principles; but, whatever principle of apportionment has been adopted, they have been known, both in the legislation and ordinary speech of the country, by the name of “assessments.” Assessments have also, very generally, if not always, been apportioned upon principles different from those adopted in “taxation,” in the ordinary sense of that term; and any one can see, upon a moment’s reflection, that the apportionment, to bear equally, and do substantial justice to all parties, must be made upon a different principle from that adopted in “taxation,” so called [Emery v. San Francisco Gas Co., 28 Cal 356].

  • The differences between taxation and taking property in right of eminent domain are that taxation exacts money or services from individuals, as and for their respective shares of contribution to any public burden; while private property taken for public use, by right of eminent domain, is taken, not as the owner’s share of contribution to a public burden, but as so much beyond his share, and for which compensation must be made. Moreover, taxation operates upon a community, or upon class of persons in a community, and by some rule of apportionment; while eminent domain operates upon an individual, and without reference to the amount or value exacted from any other individual, or class of individuals [People v. Brooklyn, 4 N.Y. 419, 55 Am. Dec. 266].

    • Double taxation: see DOUBLE

    • Taxation of costs: in practice, the process of ascertaining and charging up the amount of costs in an action to which a party is legally entitled, or which are legally chargeable. And, in English practice, the process of examining the items in an attorney’s bill of costs and making the proper deductions, if any.




TAXA’TION, n. [L. taxatio]. A taxing; the act of laying a tax, or of imposing taxes on the subjects of a state by government, or on the members of a corporation or company by the proper authority. Taxation is probably the most difficult subject of legislation.

  1. Tax; sum imposed. [Little used]

  • He daily such taxations did exact –

  1. Charge; accusation. [Little used]

  2. The act of taxing or assessing a bill of costs.

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