What are Concurrent Powers?

Emma G.

Concurrent powers are powers that are held by both the federal government and the states or provinces that make up a federalist nation. They exist because states and federal governments have similar needs. Both typically need to keep people safe, support their economies, and punish wrongdoers.

The US Bill of Rights includes the first ten amendments to the Constitution.
The US Bill of Rights includes the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

One of the most often cited examples of a concurrent power is taxation. In the United States, the federal government can tax its citizens and the states can tax their residents. This means that one person will pay both the federal income tax and the income taxes imposed by the state in which the person lives. The state and federal governments then use the money to pay for government needs and services.

The Constitution implies that concurrent powers should exist.
The Constitution implies that concurrent powers should exist.

Other concurrent powers include the power to make roads, create lower courts, borrow money, create and enforce laws, and charter banks and corporations. These powers may vary depending on the nation. In cases where laws created by the states conflict with federal law, the states must conform to the federal law. Countries in which concurrent powers are shared between the federal and state governments include India, Canada, Australia, and the United States, among others.

The Constitution of the United States does not explicitly grant concurrent powers; rather, it only implies that they should exist. Concurrent powers were, however, mentioned by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers. Hamilton was a founding father and the first US Secretary of the Treasury. He wrote that it was important for states to maintain their sovereignty, and he thought that concurrent powers could help them achieve this.

States also hold reserved powers, which are any powers not explicitly granted to the federal government by the constitution. Examples include the power to create schools, run elections, and manage state government. These powers are important because they keep the federal government from having too much control over the states.

The federal government holds delegated powers. These are powers explicitly granted to the federal government by the constitution, including the ability to declare war and coin money. Delegated powers help the country to maintain consistency between states and operate without the consent of individual states.

Conversely, denied powers are things the government is not allowed to do. Many of these are found in the Bill of Rights — the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States. For example, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." These powers protect citizens from interference by the government.

Concurrent powers were mentioned by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers.
Concurrent powers were mentioned by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers.

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Discussion Comments


If you are first time home buyer and looking for a state to settle in, understanding the relationship of concurrent powers and how it works on the subject of taxes can save you a lot of money. There are lists of all the states available, and what their taxes are, both in sales and income.

Choosing a lower cost state when you start out is a good way to bank away money for the future. You can also use this knowledge to find a great spot for retirement.

Even little things like whether or not the state taxes on groceries, can really add up. As they say, information is power.


I think that the government branches having concurrent powers are the best way to regulate funding in various states. I think there will always be areas of the country that are more desirable to live in and tax rates should react accordingly, as there will be more demand for services.

In the case of things like public schools, policing and power, the separation of states by varying tax percentages is fair. I think that if different areas have different demands they should pay for them. A good example of this is California, which currently has the highest sales tax rate in the country, but in my opinion also some of the best standards of living.


@Jennythelib - Yes, delegated powers and enumerated powers are synonyms.

The founders probably did envision a weaker federal government, but they wrote a Constitution that would adapt over time. And, of course, they lived in a very different world, when traveling from New York to Washington was quite an ordeal.

The idea of implied powers allows the federal government to do a lot of things not expressly stated. For instance, they get a lot of mileage out of the ability to regulate interstate commerce!


Are delegate powers the same as enumerated powers? That's the term I think I've heard before for things that the Constitution specifically allows the federal government to do. Does the federal government today do things that are not listed in the Constitution as it being allowed to do?

My understanding is that the federal government has a lot more power today than the founders envisioned--that using the term "states" meant that they thought of the states as mini-independent countries.

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