A Pinch of Salt, June 2010- The ‘Unusual’ Application of UDITPA Section 18



All law is universal but about some things it is not possible to make a universal statement which shall be correct. . . . [F]or the error is in not the law nor in the legislator but in the nature of the thing, since the matter of practical affairs is of this kind from the start. . . . Hence the equitable is just, and better than one kind of justice — not better than absolute justice but better than the error that arises from the absoluteness of the statement.1

In 350 B.C. this is how Aristotle described the need for equity and fairness. Aristotle was never a lawyer or legislator, but his ideas on equity certainly have influenced the modern legal system.

In 1957 the framers of the Uniform Division of Income for Tax Purposes Act also recognized that the principles of equity and fairness are paramount in the design of sensible business taxation. Taking up Aristotle’s invitation, UDITPA’s drafters incorporated an ‘‘equitable apportionment’’ provision, codified in section 18, which permits the use of an alternative apportionment, in uncommon circumstances, circumstances, if a prescribed method produces an unfair or inequitable result. Over the ensuing years, most states have either adopted UDITPA’s section 18 or enacted similar provisions permitting adjustments to the standard apportionment formula.2

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