The Silence of Congress

State Taxation of Interstate Commerce

By Joseph F. Zimmerman

Subjects: American Government
Paperback : 9780791472064, 296 pages, June 2008
Hardcover : 9780791472057, 296 pages, August 2007

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Table of contents


1. State Competition for Tax Revenue

2. Excise and Documentary Taxes

3. Severance Taxes
4. The Nonresident Income Tax

5. Corporate Income Taxation

6. Escheats and Tax Revenue Competition

7. Competition for Other Tax Resources

8. The Silence of Congress

9. Fairness in Taxation of Interstate Income


Argues for greater congressional oversight of state taxation of interstate commerce.


The Silence of Congress is the first book to examine state taxation of interstate commerce and the relative inactivity on the part of Congress to regulate such commerce. As states actively seek to maximize tax revenues, congressional silence has affected both citizens and corporations and resulted in myriad tax inequalities from one state to another on such things as personal income, estates, cigarettes and alcoholic beverages, tourism, and even visiting athlete status. Inconsistencies also affect a state's ability to attract and hold lucrative business investments such as sports franchises and gambling facilities. Noting that Congress has been slow to take advantage of the broad powers granted it by the United States Constitution in this area, Joseph F. Zimmerman evaluates the usefulness of Adam Smith's four universally acclaimed maxims of fair taxation and recommends changes to ground rules that would increase cooperation between states while aiding in the creation of a more perfect economic union.

Joseph F. Zimmerman is Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, State University of New York. He is the author of many books, including Interstate Disputes: The Supreme Court's Original Jurisdiction and Congressional Preemption: Regulatory Federalism, both also published by SUNY Press.


"While the topic of interstate taxation might appear dry to many, the implications on paychecks, state coffers and economic growth and development are all too real and important." — Law and Politics Book Review

"…Zimmerman effectively uses the narrow topic of state taxation of interstate commerce to illustrate the broader aspects of conflict, competition, and cooperation that are inherent in America's federal system of government … The book is an informative piece of policy analysis and especially deserves to be read by members of Congress and state legislatures who develop tax policy." — International Social Science Review

"…a useful addition to U.S. tax and interstate commerce collections … Recommended." — CHOICE

"While the topic of interstate taxation might appear dry to many, the implications on paychecks, state coffers and economic growth and development are all too real and important …the book would help law and graduate students in Constitutional Law and Tax classes and act as primer for instructors, whether for graduate or undergraduate courses. The middle sections of each chapter … provide a nice review and summary of relevant congressional and court action." — Law and Politics Book Review

"This book is extremely well organized and written, and is supported by careful and appropriate research. It fills an intellectual void that accounts for why various states have such different tax policies." — Nelson Wikstrom, coauthor of American Intergovernmental Relations: A Fragmented Federal Polity