Concurrent Powers: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Defining Concurrent Powers
  • 0:43 Examples of Concurrent Powers
  • 3:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Benz

Stephen has a JD and a BA in sociology and political science.

Concurrent powers are those powers given to both states and the federal government by the U.S. Constitution. We'll look at some examples of concurrent powers in this lesson.

Defining Concurrent Powers

Don't you just hate April 15th? Tax Day. For Americans, this day is often dreadful, as it represents the last day we have to file taxes without being docked a late penalty. And if your state has an income tax, you might get hit with a double whammy. But why is it that one must pay both national taxes and state taxes? The answer comes down to the concept of concurrent powers.

Concurrent powers are powers shared by both states and the federal government. They are powers that are not exclusive to the state or federal government, but are held by both.

Examples of Concurrent Powers

The first concurrent power held by both the federal government and state governments is the right to levy taxes. The federal government can impose excise taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes on goods, as per the U.S. constitution. Likewise, states and localities can impose a general sales tax, an excise tax, import duties, or a property tax. On some goods, like gasoline, national and state taxes are included in the price. Implied with this power to tax is the ability of the national and state governments to spend money on the general welfare. Both levels of government can set up programs that they feel will help society as a whole.

The second concurrent power held by both the federal government and the state governments is the right to borrow money on credit. In the case of the federal government, the national debt has exceeded $17 trillion dollars. Likewise, states are allowed to borrow on debt, but nearly all states (45 of 50) have passed statutes, constitutional amendments, or other legislative provisions requiring the state to have a balanced budget. A balanced budget is when the government spends only as much as it earns in tax revenues. The National Debt Clock in New York City keeps track of the national debt. Although states have the concurrent power to spend on credit, most have passed balanced budget requirements.

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