Moritz v. Commissioner

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Moritz v. Commissioner
seal of the tenth circuit
CourtUnited States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
Full case nameCharles E. Moritz, Petitioner-appellant, v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Respondent-appellee
DecidedNovember 22, 1972
Citation(s)469 F.2d 466 (10th Cir. 1972)
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingJudges William Judson Holloway Jr., William Edward Doyle, Fred Daugherty[1]

Charles E. Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue (469 F.2d 466) was a tax case decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on November 22, 1972. Mr. Moritz was a never-married man whose invalid mother lived with him. His work for a publisher required extensive travel and he hired a woman to help care for his mother. In his federal income tax return for 1968 he deducted the $1,250 he paid for the caregiver's services that year. Section 214 of the Internal Revenue Code in force for that year allowed such deductions only for individuals in certain circumstances:

Sec. 214. Expenses for care of certain dependents

(a) General rule.-There shall be allowed as a deduction expenses paid during the taxable year by a taxpayer who is a woman or widower, or is a husband whose wife is incapacitated or is institutionalized, for the care of one or more dependents (as defined in subsection (d) (1)), but only if such care is for the purpose of enabling the taxpayer to be gainfully employed. ...

(d) Definitions.-For purposes of this section- ...

(2) Widower.-The term 'widower' includes an unmarried individual who is legally separated from his spouse under a decree of divorce or of separate maintenance.

The government had argued successfully in tax court that these provisions did not cover Mr. Moritz since he was male and never married. Moritz, on appeal, was represented by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband, Martin D. Ginsburg, aided by Melvin Wulf of the American Civil Liberties Union. They argued that Mr. Moritz would have been allowed the deduction if he were female and that there was no rational basis for the difference in treatment between men and women in this case and that therefore this discrimination based on gender was an unconstitutional denial of equal protection. They also argued that the appropriate remedy was to allow unmarried men the deduction rather than strike down the entire Section 214, thereby eliminating the dependent care deduction for everyone. The government's response included a computer-generated listing of hundreds of laws that included sex-based criteria which might be at risk if the Section 214 restriction were struck down.[2][3]

In a unanimous opinion by Circuit Judge William Judson Holloway Jr., the court first rejected the government's claim that Moritz had not established that the care he gave was "for the purpose of enabling the taxpayer to be gainfully employed." The government had argued that Moritz would not have been able to provide the care even if he was not working. The court ruled that earlier stipulations had established that purpose and that, anyway, the care being given was not so specialized that Moritz could not provide it. It next held that the classification by gender was "an invidious discrimination and invalid under due process principles. It is not one having a fair and substantial relation to the object of the legislation dealing with the amelioration of burdens on the taxpayer," citing Reed v. Reed.

Finally the court agreed that "extending the coverage of the deduction provisions seems logical and proper, in view of their purpose and the broad separability clause in the act."[4]

See also[edit]

  • On the Basis of Sex—a 2018 film about Justice Ginsburg's early career, focusing on this case.


  1. ^ Judge Daugherty was Chief Judge of the Western District of Oklahoma.
  2. ^ Grady, Constance (June 29, 2015). "Notorious RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's journey from ACLU lawyer to pop culture icon". Vox. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  3. ^ Lithwick, Dahlia (August 30, 2010). "Ruth Bader Ginsburg shows how feminism is done. Again". Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  4. ^ Charles E. Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue (469 F.2d 466)