Seven British income tax disputes over depreciation (1875–1897) are analyzed in this contextual study. The legal cases reveal how uncertainty over meanings for “depreciation,” “profits,” and “capital” reflected social and political tensions which had commercial accounting implications. Case analysis yields evidence of how judicial support reinforced the Inland Revenue's technical authority over a competing tax administration institution and enabled its modern regulatory control over taxpayers to be constructed. The British example illustrates the ways in which technical and administrative practices may emerge from the contestation of meanings that takes place both in a wide political context and within particular institutional settings.

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