“…I doubt that any person alive today has had as close and as varied a relationship with the Internal Revenue Code as I have had.” – Surrey, Unpublished Memoir
Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce the Stanley S. Surrey Papers are now open to researchers. The material dates from 1913 to 1981, and documents Surrey’s exceptional contributions to tax law both as a public servant and as a professor of law. Considered “a dean of the academic tax bar,” Surrey contributed to the field of tax law in many ways. He served as the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, was an active member of many professional organizations including the American Law Institute, and was a Professor of Law at Harvard for thirty years.
Walter Surrey writing to his son, Stanley, on his appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. Surrey Papers, box 319, folder 5. Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library.
Early in his career, Surrey worked as an attorney for the National Recovery Administration (1933-35) and the National Labor Relations Board (1935-37). He then moved on to the U.S. Treasury Department where he worked on the Wartime Revenue Act. After a brief time in the U.S. Naval Reserve (1944-46), Surrey began to teach law at Berkley. It was during his time at Berkley that Surrey became the Chief Reported for the Income Tax Project conducted by the American Law Institute, a project that would last more than a decade. The Income Tax Project resulted in a number of publications addressing issues in the American tax code and have had a lasting influence on tax legislation.
There is a large number of correspondence, drafts, and handwritten notes documenting the American Law Institute Income Tax Project, the Income, Estate and Gift Tax Project and the second Income Tax Project, which Surrey advised on in the 1970s, in the collection. This material demonstrates how tax policy is developed and eventually becomes part of the tax code.
Surrey became a member of Harvard’s Faculty in 1950. As a faculty member he founded Harvard’s Program for International Taxation and served as director of the program from 1953 until 1961 when he was appointed as Assistant Secretary. He later came back to Harvard in 1969. A major portion of the Stanley Surrey Papers is devoted to his time as Assistant Secretary to the Treasury. Surrey kept correspondence, type-written notes, reports and memoranda from his time in the Treasury. He also kept meticulous notes of his daily routine at the Treasury in a professional journal. As Assistant Secretary he also coined the term Tax Expenditure, and was influential in defining the term later in a book co-authored with William C. Warren.
Draft page from “Pathways” on the definition of tax expenditures. Surrey Papers, box 416, folder 8. Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library.
All of Surrey’s various professional associations from his earliest career as an attorney to his time as the President of the National Tax Association (1979-80), and areas of interest are represented in Surrey’s personal reference files preserved in this collection. Surrey’s extensive personal reference files on issues of national and international taxation contain essays, documents, memoranda, newspaper clippings, notes, printed material, reports, testimony, and material sent to him from colleagues for Surrey’s reference in his function as professor, author, and consultant. This file is evidence of Surrey’s lifelong dedication to improving tax policy in every avenue of his career.
The Stanley S. Surrey Papers open to all researchers. Anyone interested in using the collection should contact Historical & Special Collections to schedule an appointment.
Posted on behalf of Rachel Parker by Edwin Moloy.
 “Stanley S. Surrey, 74; Taxation Law Expert”. New York Times. August 28, 1984.