Definitions of taxation abound, from the extremes of “slavery and theft” to “what we pay for a civilized society.” Here are a few interesting court definitions from before the era of modern income taxation in America; the source is Robert Desty, The American Law of Taxation As in the Courts of Last Resort in the United States (1884):
“A tax is a portion of the property of individuals which is taken from them by the government and is disposed of by it,” 1 Encyc. Brit. 37; Op. Judges, 58 Me. 591.
“an impost levied by the authority of government upon its citi- zens and subjects for the support of the state,” Camden v. Allen, 2 Dutch. 398; Glasgow v. Rowse, 43 Mo. 489.
“charges levied by the sovereign power upon its subjects, or their property, and not upon its own property, nor upon property over which it has no dominion,” People v. McCreery, 34 Cal. 456.
“an imposition for the support of the public treasury, and not for the support of individuals or private corporations, however benevolent they may be, Philadelphia Ass’n v. Wood, 39 Pa. St. 82.
“revenue collected from the people for objects in which they are interested-the contributions of the people for things useful and conducive to their welfare,” Hilbish v. Catherman, 64 Pa. St. 159.