Taxes have been defined by an eminent authority to be "burdens or charges imposed by the legislative .power upon persons or property to raise money for public purposes."1 The same author in another work observes that they "differ from forced contributions, loans, and benevolences of arbitrary and tyrannical periods in that they are levied by authority of law, and by some rule of proportion which is intended to insure uniformity of contribution, and a just apportionment of the burdens of government."2

The power to tax is ordinarily spoken of as an incident of sovereignty, or, as a sovereign power. A more exact statement is, however, that inasmuch as the raising of a certain amount of revenue is essential to the existence and operation of a public governing body, that body has, even in default of express constitutional grant, an implied power to compel those subject to its authority to contribute the financial means necessary for its support.

The levying of a tax, that is to say, the determination that a given tax shall be imposed, assessed and collected in a certain manner, is a legislative function. In Meriwether v. Garrett3 the court say: "The levying of taxes is not a judicial act. It has no elements of one. It is a high act of sovereignty, to be performed only by the legislature upon considerations of policy, necessity and the public welfare. In the distribution of the powers of government in this country into three departments, the power of taxation falls to the legislative. It belongs to that department to determine what measures shall be taken for the public welfare, and to provide the revenues for the support and due administration of the government throughout the State in all its subdivisions. Having the sole power to authorize the tax, it must equally possess the sole power to prescribe the means by which the tax shall be collected, and to designate the officers through whom its will shall be enforced."

1 Cooley, Constitutional Limitations, 7th ed., p. 678.

2 Tarn Hon, Ch. I.

3 102 U. S. 472; 2G L. ed. 197.

The determination of the precise amount of the tax which each individual or each piece of property shall pay according to the general rule legislatively laid down, is an administrative act. The determination whether the legislative rule is, constitutionally speaking, a proper one, and whether the administrative officials have properly followed it, as well as observed all the other requirements of law, is, of course, a judicial function. Thus the administrative official must in all cases, in his assessments both as to classes of persons and kinds of property, and as to rates of taxation, be guided by the law. Upon the other hand the legislature, when levying ad valorem taxes, has not the power itself, generally speaking, to declare the value of a specific piece, or of specific pieces of property for taxation purposes.4 "Where, however, taxes are laid not according to values of property, but upon persons, as a capitation tax, or upon occupations, as license fees and tolls, or upon documents, as stamp duties, or upon number or quantities of goods ("specific" taxes), the legislature fixes in each case the amount of the contribution.