April 15, 2008 1:31PM

Supreme Court to Nation: Happy Tax Day!

In a fit of either highly coincidental timing or good humor, the Supreme Court today released opinions in two tax cases. In MeadWestvaco Corp. v. Illinois Department of Revenue, the Court limited the power of states to tax the money that a company based in another state earns when it sells off an investment in a division involved in a separate line of business. In U.S. v. Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Co., the Court decided that a taxpayer seeking a refund for an invalid tax under the Constitution’s Export Clause must seek a refund from the government before bringing a lawsuit.

So the taxpayers went 1 – 1 today, but the cases were both technical and not worth getting into. Perhaps the only interesting thing about them — aside from this whole Tax Day thing — is that they were both unanimous. This technicality and unanimity could be further evidence of Chief Justice Roberts trying to steer the Court to take on less high‐​profile (typically business) cases, with narrow issues that prevent the fractured 5 – 4 decision‐​making that make the Court seem more political than it really is (or should be).