The Ordinary Diet of the Law: How to Interpret Public Law 86-272

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Indeed, in today’s world, filled with legal complexity, the true test of federalist principle may lie, not in the occasional constitutional effort to trim Congress’ commerce power at its edges, or to protect a State’s treasury from a private damages action, but rather in those many statutory cases where courts interpret the mass of technical detail that is the ordinary diet of the law.

Public Law 86-272 is an important feature of the landscape of both state corporate income taxation and state tax policy more generally. The Multistate Tax Commission is completing an important project on updating the guidance given to taxpayers regarding compliance with P.L. 86-272. We plan to discuss some key features of this planned guidance in a future article (or perhaps articles). But first we will discuss the overall interpretive rubric that should be used for P.L. 86-272.