BAILEY v. DREXEL FURNITURE CO.
As an exercise of its taxing powers Congress enacted the Revenue Act of 1919, also called the Child Labor Tax Law. Under the law, companies employing children under fourteen years of age would be assessed ten percent of their annual profits. During the same year in which the act was passed, Drexel Furniture Company was found in violation of it and required to pay over $6000 in taxes, which it did under protest.
Did Congress violate the Constitution in adopting the Child Labor Tax Law in attempting to regulate the employment of children, a power reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment?
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.