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Ajay K. Mehrotra

Ajay K. Mehrotra headshot

ABF Director and Research Professor

Joint appointment

Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law


B.A., University of Michigan J.D., Georgetown University Ph.D., University of Chicago

Curriculum vitae


Ajay K. Mehrotra is the Executive Director of the American Bar Foundation. He is also a Research Professor at the ABF, a Professor of Law at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, and an Affiliated Professor of History at Northwestern University. Mehrotra's scholarship and teaching focus on legal history and tax law. More generally, his research explores law and political…

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Research focus

Tax law; legal history; the relationship between taxation and state formation in historical and comparative contexts


The VAT Laggard: A Comparative History of U.S. Resistance to the Value-added Tax

This project explores how and why the United States has historically rejected national consumption taxes. Because nearly all developed countries, and many in the developing world, have a national…

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“Fiscal Forearms: Taxation as the Lifeblood of the Modern Liberal State,” in The Many Hands of the State: Theorizing the Complexities of Political Authority and Social Control, Kimberly Morgan and Ann Orloff (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
The Many Hands of the State: Theorizing the Complexities of Political Authority and Social Control,
“Corporate Taxation and the Regulation of Early Twentieth-Century American Business” (with Steven A. Bank) in The Corporation and American Democracy, eds. Naomi Lamoreaux and William Novak (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017).
The Corporation and American Democracy
“From Contested Concept to Cornerstone of Administrative Practice: Social Learning and the Early History of U.S. Tax Withholding,” 7 Columbia Journal of Tax Law 144-68 (2016).
Columbia Journal of Tax Law

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“A Brief History of U.S. Income Tax Withholding: From Contested Concept to Cornerstone of Administrative Practice,” UCLA Law School, Public Finance Colloquium, Los Angeles, CA March 2016
Mar 2016
“New Deal Taxation and the Long Twentieth Century of Progressive Taxation,” Conference on The Constitution and Economic Inequality, University of Texas School of Law, Austin, TX, January 2016
Jan 2016
The Relationship between Corporations and American Democracy
Nov 2015

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Professional Service & Recognition

  • Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historian Distinguished Lecturer Program, 2015-2018
  • Recipient, 2014 Society for U.S. Intellectual History Annual Book Award (for Making the Modern American Fiscal State)
  • Co-Principal Investigator (with H. Timothy Lovelace), American Society for Legal History Grant (to fund Junior Scholars’ Conference on “Globalization and the Law in Historical Perspective” at Indiana University, Bloomington), 2014-15
  • Co-Field Director (with Isaac Martin), Social Science Research Council, Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship Program, 2013
  • Academic Leadership Program Fellow, Committee on Institutional Cooperation, 2012-13
  • Leon E. Wallace Teaching Award, Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington, 2010
  • Co-Principal Investigator (with Michael Grossberg), Indiana University New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Research Grant, 2008-9 (for year long colloquium on “New Directions in Law & Society Scholarship”)
  • Co-Principal Investigator (with Isaac Martin), American Sociological Association/National Science Foundation Grant for the Advancement of the Discipline, 2006-7
  • Post-doctoral Visiting Scholar Fellowship, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2006-2007
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Fellowship, 2006-2007 (designated special recognition as part of the NEH’s “We the People Project”)

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