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JOHNSON v. WELLS FARGO & COMPANY SAME V. TAYLOR

November 29, 1915

JOHNSON, TREASURER OF STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA
v.
WELLS FARGO & COMPANY

SAME
v.
TAYLOR, PRESIDENT OF AMERICAN EXPRESS COMPANY



APPEALS FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney, McReynolds

Author: Day

[ 239 U.S. Page 236]

 MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.

These cases were argued at the same time and may be considered together. They are appeals from the decision of the Circuit Court of Appeals of the Eighth Circuit, by

[ 239 U.S. Page 237]

     which the present appellant, as Treasurer of the State of South Dakota, was enjoined from assessing certain taxes levied against the appellees by the State Board of Assessment and Equalization of the State of South Dakota, for the year 1910. The bills, brought for the purpose of enjoining the collection of such taxes, were dismissed in the District Court (205 Fed. Rep. 60), which decrees were reversed in the Circuit Court of Appeals, and decrees entered remanding the case to the District Court with instructions to enter decrees for the appellees, restraining the collection of the taxes (214 Fed. Rep. 180).

Under the law of South Dakota, Wells Fargo and Company made a statement showing that its gross earnings within the State for the year ending April 30, 1910, were $131,096.28, and that the value of its office furniture, fixtures, and real estate was $18,473.98. The Board assessed the value of the property of Wells Fargo and Company at $289,877.00, and imposed a tax of twenty-eight mills on the dollar, making a total tax of $8,116.55. Similarly, the Board assessed the value of the American Express Company at $193,260, and levied a tax of $5,411.28. The bills averred a tender of taxes upon the returns, and charged that the assessments made were in violation of the state constitution, and, if enforced, would have the effect to take the property of the express companies without due process of law, in violation of the Federal Constitution.

The constitution of the State of South Dakota, as the same was in force at the time of these assessments, provided (Article XI, § 2), as follows:

"All taxes to be raised in this State shall be uniform on all real and personal property, according to its value in money, to be ascertained by such rules of appraisement and assessment as may be prescribed by the legislature by general law, so that every person and corporation shall pay a tax in proportion to the value of his, her or its

[ 239 U.S. Page 238]

     property. And the legislature shall provide by general law for the assessing and levying of taxes on all corporation property, as near as may be, by the same methods as are provided for assessing and levying of taxes on individual property."

From an analysis of this section, it appears that taxes to be valid must be uniform upon all real and personal property; that the legislation providing for the assessment and collection of taxes must be such that every person and corporation may be taxed in proportion to the value of his, her or its property; and that the general laws which provide for the assessing of taxes on corporation property, shall be as near as may be, by the same methods as are provided for the assessing and levying of taxes on individual property.*fn1

While this constitution was in full force and effect, the legislature passed an act, providing for the assessment of taxes upon express and sleeping car companies (Chap. 64, Laws of South Dakota, 1907, as amended by Chap. 162 of the Laws of 1909). In § 16 of this Act, express companies are required to transmit statements to the Auditor of State, showing ...


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