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Opinion of the Court.
commerce indirectly and is not an immediate burden upon it. It affords to the State only a fair and reasonable revenue for the maintenance of the government, the benefits from the protection of which the petitioner enjoys. Our conclusion is that the law thus construed, as applying to a foreign corporation using a part of its property exclusively for interstate commerce within the Commonwealth, violates no guaranty established by the Constitution of the United States. The tax statute, therefore, is interpreted as applying to a corporation engaged in business within the Commonwealth as is the petitioner.”
Counsel for the Commonwealth assert: “ The present tax law imposes an excise on foreign corporations for the privilege of doing business in Massachusetts under the protection of its laws and with the financial, commercial and other advantages flowing therefrom, measured solely by the property and net income fairly attributable to the business done within the State. Payment of the tax is not made a condition precedent to the doing of business. Collection of the tax is to be made by ordinary methods. There is no discrimination either against foreign corporations or against interstate commerce.” “The taxes complained of were excises and not property taxes.” Being excises these taxes are not taxes on property or net income, but taxes measured by property and net income, used in or derived from business done in Massachusetts." See Judson Freight Forwarding Co. v. Commonwealth, 242 Mass. 47.
This view of the nature of the exaction was adopted by the court below, and we think it is the correct one. The right to lay taxes on tangible property or on income is not involved; and the inquiry comes to this: May a State impose upon a foreign corporation which transacts only interstate business within her borders an excise tax measured by a combination of two factors—the proportion of the total value of capital shares attributed to
Opinion of the Court.
transactions therein, and the proportion of net income attributed to such transactions?
Cheney Brothers Co. v. Massachusetts, 246 U. S. 147, 153, 154, necessitates a negative reply. Under St. 1909, c. 490, Part III, § 56, the State demanded an excise of a foreign corporation which transacted therein only interstate business. The excise was laid upon the corporation and the basis of it the same as in the present cause. This court said: “We think the tax on this company was essentially a tax on doing an interstate business and therefore repugnant to the commerce clause." Here also the excise was demanded on account of interstate business. A new method for measuring the tax had been prescribed, but that cannot save the exaction. Any such, excise burdens interstate commerce and is therefore invalid without regard to measure or amount. Looney v. Crane, 245 U. S. 178, 190; International Paper Co. v. Massachusetts, 246 U. S. 135, 142; Heisler v. Thomas Colliery Co., 260 U. S. 245, 259; Texas Transport & Terminal Co. v. New Orleans, 264 U. S. 150.
International Paper Co. v. Massachusetts considered an excise upon a corporation doing both local and interstate business, measured by its capital stock. St. 1909, c. 490; St. 1914, c. 724. Pertinent cases were cited and discussed and the tax declared "unconstitutional and void as placing a prohibited burden on interstate commerce and laid on property of a foreign corporation located and used beyond the jurisdiction of the State.” Payment as a condition precedent to the doing of any business was not a controlling circumstance. The opinion recognizes the State's right to demand excises of foreign corporations in respect of intrastate business unless the exaction is really a tax on interstate business or property beyond the State. Under this principle certain of the complaining corporations in Cheney Brothers Co. v. Massachusetts, supra, were properly taxed. Plaintiff in
error did no local business, and there was no proper foundation for the excise.
It must now be regarded as settled that a State may not burden interstate commerce or tax property beyond her borders under the guise of regulating or taxing intrastate business. So to burden interstate commerce is prohibited by the Commerce Clause; and the Fourteenth Amendment does not permit taxation of property beyond the State's jurisdiction. The amount demanded is unimportant when there is no legitimate basis for the tax. So far as the language of Baltic Mining Co. v. Massachusetts, 231 U. S. 68, 87, tends to support a different view it conflicts with conclusions reached in later opinions and is now definitely disapproved.
Union Tank Line Co. v. Wright, 249 U. S. 275, 282, et seq., pointed out the limitations which must be observed when property used in interstate commerce is valued for purposes of taxation by a State. We there declined to follow the rule applied in Pullman's Palace Car Co. v. Pennsylvania, 141 U. S. 18, 26, and held that determination of real value with fair accuracy is essential. Many methods adapted to that end have been accepted, but this does not tend to support an excise laid upon a foreign corporation on account of interstate transactions.
The local business of a foreign corporation may support an excise measured in any reasonable way, if neither interstate commerce nor property beyond the State is taxed. Underwood Typewriter Co. v. Chamberlain, 254 U. S. 113, approved such an excise measured by income reasonably attributed to intrastate business; but nothing there said was intended to modify well established principles. It must be read with the essential facts in mind. ocal business was a sufficient basis for the excise, and there was no taxation of interstate commerce or property beyond the State. Of course, the opinion does not support the suggestion that the present statute is free from
Opinion of the Court.
the fatal objections to the former one. because payment of the tax is no longer a condition precedent to carrying on any business. It cites approvingly St. Louis S. W. Ry. v. Arkansas, 235 U. S. 350, 364; and there this court said
“So far as the commerce clause is concerned, it seems to us that the principles upon whose application the present decision must depend are those set forth in Postal Tel. Cable Co. v. Adams, 155 U. S. 688, 695, where the court, by Mr. Chief Justice Fuller, said: 'It is settled that where by way of duties laid on the transportation of the subjects of interstate commerce, or on the receipts derived therefrom, or on the occupation or business of carrying it on, a tax is levied by a State on interstate commerce, such taxation amounts to a regulation of such commerce and cannot be sustained. But property in a State belonging to a corporation, whether foreign or domestic, engaged in foreign or interstate commerce, may be taxed, or a tax may be imposed on the corporation on account of its property within a State, and may take the form of a tax for the privilege of exercising its franchises within the State, if the ascertainment of the amount is made dependent in fact on the value of its property situated within the State (the exaction, therefore, not being susceptible of exceeding the sum which might be leviable directly thereon), and if payment be not made a condition precedent to the right to carry on the business, but its enforcement left to the ordinary means devised for the collection of taxes.'”
The excise challenged by plaintiff in error is not materially different from the one declared unconstitutional in Cheney Brothers Co. v. Massachusetts, and cannot be enforced against a foreign corporation which does nothing but interstate business within the State. The introduction of an extremely complicated method for calculating the amount of the exaction does not change its nature or mitigate the burden.
Argument for the United States.
The decrees of the court below must be reversed and the causes remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
Reversed. MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS dissents.
UNITED STATES V. JOHNSTON.
CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE
No. 111. Argued April 30, 1925.—Decided, May 11, 1925.
1. Under the provision of the "Revenue Act of 1918," taxing ad
mission fees, (Feb. 24, 1919, c. 18, § 800, 802, 40. Stat. 1057, 1120,) a person who has collected such fees at a public exhibition and is required to pay the tax to the United States is a debtor and not a bailee; so that failure to pay the tax is not indictable as an embezzlement of money of the United States, within 47
Criminal Code. P. 226. 2. A person who collects admission fees to boxing matches is liable
to punishment under § 1308b of the above Revenue Act for failure to pay the taxes to the United States, if he really acts on his own behalf in giving the exhibitions, collecting the fees and undertaking to pay taxes, even though, to comply with a state law, the exhibitions are given nominally by a corporate licensee
ci which he is technically but the agent. P 227. 290 Fed. 120, reversed.
CERTIORARI to a judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals which reversed a sentence of the District Court in a criminal prosecution for failure to pay over admission fees taxes, and for embezzlement.
Mr. William J. Donovan, Assistant to the Attorney General, with whom The Solicitor General was on the brief, for the United States.
This Court has jurisdiction to grant certiorari at the suit of the Government in a criminal case. It is not