Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

Opinion of the Court.

urer of the State to recover the tax, the payment of which was thus refused, the Supreme Court of Connecticut held that the tax was not on property but on the corporation as such. The case being brought here, the judgment was affirmed, this court holding that the tax was on the franchise of the corporation and not upon its property, and the fact that a part of the deposits was invested in securities of the United States did not exempt the society from the tax. Said the court : “Nothing can be more certain in legal decision than that the privileges and franchises of a private corporation, and all trades and avocations by which the citizens acquire a livelihood, may be taxed by a State for the support of the state government. Authority to that effect resides in the State independent of the federal government, and is wholly unaffected by the fact that the corporation or individual has or has not made investment in federal securities.” pp. 606-607.

It was contended in that case that the deposits in the bank were subjected to taxation from the fact that the extent of the tax was determined by their amount. But the court said: “ Reference is evidently made to the total amount of deposits on the day named, not as the subject matter for assessment, but as the basis for computing the tax required to be paid by the corporation defendants. They enjoy important privileges, and it is just that they should contribute to the public burdens. Views of the defendants are, that the sums required to be paid to the treasury of the State is a tax on the assets of the institution, but there is not a word in the provision which gives any satisfactory support to that proposition. Different modes of taxation are adopted in different States, and even in the same State at different periods of their history. Fixed sums are in some instances required to be annually paid into the treasury of the State, and in others a prescribed percentage is levied on the stock, assets or property owned or held by the corporation, while in others the sum required to be paid is left indefinite, to be ascertained in some mode by the amount of business which the corporation shall transact within a defined period. Experience shows that the latter mode is better calculated to effect justice among the corpora

Opinion of the Court.

tions required to contribute to the public burdens than any other which has been devised, as its tendency is to graduate the required contribution to the value of the privileges granted and to the extent of their exercise. Existence of the power is beyond doubt, and it rests in the discretion of the legislature whether they will levy a fixed sum, or if not, to determine in what manner the amount shall be ascertained." p. 608.

In the second case mentioned, Provident Institution v. Massachusetts, it appeared that the statute of Massachusetts, passed in 1862, levying taxes on certain insurance companies and depositors in savings banks, provided that every institution for savings incorporated under its laws should pay to the commonwealth a tax of one-half of one per cent per annum on the amount of its deposits, to be assessed one-half of said annual tax on the average amount of its deposits for the six months preceding the 1st day of May, and the other half on the average amount of its deposits for the six months preceding the 1st day of November. The Provident Institution for Savings in that State was authorized to invest its deposits in securities of the United States. Its average amount of deposits for the six months preceding the 1st day of May, 1865, was over eight millions, of which over one million was invested in such securities. It paid all the taxes demanded except on the portion which was thus invested. Upon that it declined to pay the tax. In a suit brought by the commonwealth to recover the same, the Supreme Judicial Court of the State held that the tax was one on the franchise of the company and not on property, and therefore gave judgment for the commonwealth. The case being brought here, the judgment was affirme. In deciding the case, this court said, referring to a section of the statute under which the tax was levied "Deposits, as the word is employed in that section, are the sums received by the institution from depositors, without regard to the nature of the funds. They are not capital stock in any sense, nor are they even investments, as the word is there used, which simply means the sums received wholly irrespective of the disposition made of the same, or their market value." And speaking of the difference existing be

Opinion of the Court.

tween taxes upon franchises and taxes upon property it said: “Franchise taxes are levied directly by an act of the legislature, and the corporations are required to pay the amount into the state treasury. They differ from property taxes as levied for state and municipal purposes in the basis prescribed for computing the amount, in the manner of assessment, and in the mode of collection;" and again, "Comparative valuation in assessing property taxes is the basis of computation in ascertaining the amount to be contributed by an individual, but the amount of a franchise tax depends upon the business transacted by the corporation and the extent to which they have exercised the privileges granted in their charter." pp. 631, 632.

The court also referred to a decision made by the Supreme Court of the State to the effect that the assessment imposed was to be regarded as an excise or duty on the privilege or franchise of the corporation, not as a tax on the moneys in its hands belonging to the depositors. It was the corporation, it said, that was to make the payment, and if it failed to do so it was liable not only to an action for the amount of the tax, but might also be enjoined from the future exercise of its franchise until all taxes should be fully paid. Commonwealth v. People's Savings Bank, 5 Allen, 428, 431.

And the court held that the valuation of the property had nothing to do with determining the amount of the tax, but that the amount depended on the average amount of deposits for the six months preceding the respective days named, and that there was no necessary relation between the average amount of the deposits and the amount of property owned by the institution; and, not being a property tax, it was to be considered as a franchise tax laid upon the corporation for the privileges conferred by its charter, which by all the authorities it was competent for the State to tax irrespective of what disposition the institution had made of its funds, or in what manher they had been invested.

In Hamilton Company v. Massachusetts, 6 Wall. 632, a statute of Massachusetts which required corporations having a capital stock divided into shares, to pay a tax of a certain per

Opinion of the Court.

centage upon the excess of the market value of such stock over the value of its real estate and machinery, was sustained as a statute imposing a franchise tax, notwithstanding a portion of the property which went to make the excess of the market value consisted of securities of the United States; this court, however, placing its decision upon the fact that under the provisions of the state.constitution and the practice under it the tax had been so considered by the highest tribunal of the State. This decision goes much farther than is necessary to sustain the judginent of the Court of Appeals of New York in the present case.

In this case we hold, as well upon general principles as upon the authority of the first two cases cited from 6th Wallace, that the tax for which the suit is brought is not a tax on the capital stock or property of the company, but upon its corporate franchise, and is not therefore subject to the objection stated by counsel, because a portion of its capital stock is invested in securities of the United States.

Nor is the objection tenable that the statute, in imposing such tax, conflicts with the last clause of the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, declaring that no State shall deprive any person within its jurisdiction of the equal protection of the laws. It is conceded that corporations are persons within the meaning of this Amendment. It has been so decided by this court. Pembina Cons. Silver Co. v. Pennsylvania, 125 U. S. 181. But the amendment does not prevent the classification of property for taxation — subjecting one kind of property to one rate of taxation, and another kind of property to a different rate – distinguishing between franchises, licenses and privileges, and visible and tangible property, and between real and personal property. Nor does the amendment prohibit special legislation. Indeed, the greater part of all legislation is special. either in the extent to which it operates, or the objects sought to be obtained by it. And when such legislation applies to artificial bodies, it is not open to objection if all such bodies are treated alike under similar circumstances and conditions. in respect to the privileges conferred upon them and the liabili

Syllabus.

ties to which they are subjected. Under the statute of New York all corporations, joint stock companies and associations of the same kind are subjected to the same tax. There is the same rule applicable to all under the same conditions in determining the rate of taxation. There is no discrimination in favor of one against another of the same class. See Barbier v. Connolly, 113 U. S. 29, 32; Soon Hing v. Crowley, 113 U. S. 703, 709; Missouri Pacific Railway v. Humes, 115 U. S. 512, 523; Missouri Pacific Railway v: Mackey, 127 U. S. 205, 209; Minneapolis Railway Co. v. Beckwith, 129 U. S. 26, 32.

MR. JUSTICE MILLER (with whom concurred MR. JUSTICE HARLAN) dissenting.

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN and myself dissent from the judgment in this case, because we think that, notwithstanding the peculiar language of the statute of New York, the tax in controversy is, in effect, a tax upon bonds of the United States held by the insurance company.

BLOUNT v. WALKER.

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA.

No. 1399. Submitted March 24, 1890.– Decided April 7, 1890.

A judgment by a state court of South Carolina that the will of a resident

in North Carolina, who was the donee of a power to appoint by will to receive the fee of real estate in South Carolina, after the expiration of a life estate, was properly admitted to probate in North Carolina, as executed according to the laws of that State, and was properly adınitted to probate in South Carolina by proof of an exemplified copy, though noto executed according to the laws of that State, but that the donor of the power intended that the appointment should be made by a will valid under the laws of South Carolina, which this will was not, does not refuse'' to give full faith and credit to the judgment of the court of North Caro

lina, admitting the will to probate. To give this court Jurisdiction of a writ of error tp a state court it must

appear affirmatively, not only that ja federal question was presented for decision to the highest court of the State having jurisdiction, but that its

« ПредишнаНапред »