Child Labor Tax Case History and Analysis

Facts of the Case

Plaintiff incurred tax liability under the Child Labor Tax Law (Law), 40 Stat. 1057, 1138 (1919), by permitting a child to work in its factory. After paying the tax bill under protest, plaintiff brought suit challenging the constitutionality of the Law and sought a tax refund. It is contended that the Law regulates employment of child labor which is an exclusively state function. The District Court struck the Child Labor Tax Law for being an invalid exercise of state function. Defendant appealed from the lower court’s entry of judgment in favor of plaintiff.




“Yes. The Court found that the Child Labor Tax Law was in violation of the Constitution as it intruded on the jurisdiction of states to adopt and enforce child labor codes. Chief Justice Taft argued that the tax law in question did much more than simply impose an “incidental restraint” but exerted a “prohibitory and regulatory effect” in a realm over which Congress had no jurisdiction. Taft feared that upholding this law would destroy state sovereignty and devastate “all constitutional limitation of the powers of Congress” by allowing it to disguise future regulatory legislation in the cloak of taxes.”

Case Information

Citation: 259 US 20 (1922)
Argued: Mar 8, 1922
Decided: May 15, 1922
Case Brief: 1922