I've been studying the Constitution, but I don't understand what it means when, in Article I Section 2, they say "

Taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within the Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free Persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not Taxed, three fifths of all other persons.

Can someone pleas explain to me what they're saying here?


1 Answer 1


This provision is as a practical matter obsolete. It is providing for what is known as "apportionment" of a direct tax. If State A has a population that is 10% of the total population of the US as a whole, according to the latest census, then any direct tax must be so structured that 10% of the revenue comes from state A. This doesn't work very well for anything except a "head tax" -- that is each person pays a fixed amount, say $10 per person.

This was designed to eliminate or at least reduce the motive to cheat on the census, because while a higher number got a state more representatives in Congress, it also increased the direct tax burden. But apportionment proved do awkward that Congress effectively never passed any direct taxes.

When the Supreme Court held that an income tax was a direct tax, the income tax was simply abolished until a constitutional amendment exempted it from apportionment.

So far as I know, no current Federal tax is subject to apportionment.

The 3/5ths provision included here referred to slaves, who were counted as 3/5ths of a person for this purpose. It has been obsolete since the 13th amendment outlawing slavery.

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