Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co.

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Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co.
Court U.S. Supreme Court
Citation 259 U.S. 20 (1922)
Date decided May 15, 1922
Appealed from U.S.D.C., Western District of North Carolina
Followed Hammer v. Dagenhart
Case Opinions
majority written by Taft

Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., 259 U.S. 20 (1922).

Facts: A few months after Hammer v. Dagenhart decision, Congress imposed the Child Labor Tax (10% on children under a certain age), covering essentially the same business as involved in Dagenhart. Drexel Furniture paid the tax and then won a refund in the lower courts. Bailey, the Tax Commissioner appeals.

Issue: May Congress use its taxing power to accomplish the objectives that it cannot reach under any of its other powers?

Holding: No.

  • Congress may properly impose excise taxes on commodities or other things of value, even where there results an incidental restraint on regulation. Here, however, the excise burdens only the departure from a detailed and specified course of conduct in business.
  • The Court must presume the validity of congressional statutes, but this tax is invalid on its face. It taxes only knowing departures from prescribed business activity, and is clearly regulatory in purpose and effect. Its revenue raising effects are merely incidental.

Judgment: Affirmed.


  • Structural—
    • If we grant the validity of this power, Congress could take all control
    • Conflict of powers—Congress to tax and states to regulate
  • Doctrinal—Analogy to Dagenhart case is clear; Also McCulloch v. Maryland.

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