Appeals, Nos. 95 and 118, March T., 1955, from orders of the County Court of Allegheny County, 1953, Nos. A. 1380 and A. 1381, in cases of General Foods Corporation v. City of Pittsburgh and David A. Smith, Treasurer; and General Foods Corporation v. School District of Pittsburgh and David A. Smith, Treasurer. Orders reversed; reargument refused December 22, 1955.
Oscar G. Peterson, Assistant Solicitor, with him Mortimer B. Lesher, Solicitor, for school district et al., appellants.
Robert Engel, Assistant City Solicitor, with him J. Frank McKenna, Jr., City Solicitor, for City et al., appellants.
Frank W. Ittel, with him Carl E. Glock, Jr., Frederick F. Mack, John W. Kuhnemund, and Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellee.
Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HORACE STERN
These appeals are by the City of Pittsburgh and the School District of Pittsburgh from orders of the County Court of Allegheny County sustaining the contention of the General Foods Corporation that it is not liable for the assessments against it for the years 1948-1953 of mercantile license taxes imposed by the City and the School District.
Under the authority of the Act of June 25, 1947, P.L. 1145, as amended, the City of Pittsburgh enacted an ordinance which provided for the issuance of mercantile licenses and the imposition of mercantile license taxes for the year 1948 and annually thereafter upon every person engaged in the City in the occupation or business of vendor or dealer in goods, wares and merchandise, the tax, in the case of a wholesale vendor or dealer, to be at the rate of one mill on each dollar of the volume of the annual gross business transacted by him. By the Act of June 20, 1947, P.L. 745, as amended, there was imposed an annual mercantile license tax on every person engaged in any school district of the first class in the occupation or business of vendor or dealer in goods, wares and merchandise, the tax, in the case of a wholesale vendor or dealer, to be at the rate of one-half mill on each dollar of the volume of the annual gross business transacted by him.
Plaintiff, General Foods Corporation, claimed that it was not legally subject to these taxes on the ground that it was not engaged as a wholesale vendor or dealer in the City of the School District of Pittsburgh, but performed there merely supervisory and clerical functions. The arguments of counsel and the opinion of the court below are devoted largely to the question whether plaintiff's activities within the taxing jurisdictions
amounted to the doing of business,*fn1 but the exact issue is a much narrower one, namely, whether plaintiff was a vendor or dealer in Pittsburgh; if it effected sales in the City and the School District it was liable for the tax, otherwise not, no matter in what other business activities it was engaged there.
Plaintiff's business organization is somewhat complex. It is, as to Pennsylvania, a foreign corporation, with its main headquarters in New York. It sells principally to wholesale grocers or jobbers, but also to some large chain stores and institutions. It operates through various regional offices; the "regions" are subdivided into "districts," and the districts in turn are made up of what are known as "territories"; there are district offices and territorial offices. The Eastern Region, with headquarters in New York, includes the five districts of New York, Syracuse, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. We are concerned here only with the Pittsburgh District, which covers counties in the western part of Pennsylvania, a large portion of Eastern Ohio, several counties in Maryland, and a part of West Virginia. It comprises the five territories of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Youngstown, Clarksburg, and Altoona, the Pittsburgh Territory in turn embracing ...