decided: December 5, 1975.
UNITED STATES TOBACCO COMPANY, APPELLANT,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE
Appeal from the Order of the Board of Finance and Revenue in case of Petition of United States Tobacco Company, Docket No. R-774.
Frank A. Sinon, with him Robert L. Weldon, Sherill T. Moyer and Rhoads, Sinon & Reader, for appellant.
Eugene J. Anastasio, Deputy Attorney General, with him Vincent J. Dopko, Deputy Attorney General, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Rogers. Judge Blatt joins in this dissent.
Author: Crumlish, Jr.
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 212]
Presently before us is a de novo appeal from a decision and order of the Board of Finance and Revenue sustaining the settlement and order of the Resettlement Board*fn1 imposing the Corporation Income Tax*fn2 upon the
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 213]
United States Tobacco Company (Appellant) for its reporting period ending December 31, 1971. For the reasons hereinafter stated we affirm.
Appellant is a New Jersey corporation engaged in the manufacture and sale of tobacco products sold exclusively in interstate commerce and in part to Pennsylvania customers. No company manufacturing plants are maintained in Pennsylvania, and no offices, bank accounts, company records or corporate meetings are within the Commonwealth. Appellant's sole relevant contact with Pennsylvania, for the taxable period in question, was through so-called missionary representatives whose function is dispositive of the question of sufficient nexus for imposition of this tax.
Appellant's attack upon the settlement is framed as follows:
1. The imposition of Corporation Income Tax against Appellant, a corporation engaged solely in interstate commerce activities within Pennsylvania, premised upon the sales solicitation activities of its missionary representatives is violative of Act of September 14, 1959, 15 U.S.C. § 381 et seq. and the Commerce and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution.
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 2142]
. The add back of corporation income tax, after apportionment of Appellant's Pennsylvania income tax liability is invalid in that no statutory authority exists for such an add back, in that it results in the taxation of more of a corporation's income than is reasonably related to Pennsylvania activity, in that it discriminates against multistate corporations and it unconstitutionally taxes gross income to the extent of the add back.
I -- NEXUS
Section 502 of the Code, 72 P.S. § 7502, which defines imposition of the Corporation Income Tax states:
"Every corporation carrying on activities within this Commonwealth or owning property in this Commonwealth by or in the name of itself or any person . . . shall be subject to and shall pay a State property tax on taxable income derived from sources within this Commonwealth."
The incidence of this property tax measure falls upon the taxable income derived from sources within the Commonwealth; however, crucial to the imposition of this tax is that the corporation be carrying on activities sufficient to establish a nexus enabling constitutional exaction of the tax; or phrased differently, our inquiry must ultimately confront the question of whether the Commonwealth has given anything for which it can ask in return, afforded protections or conferred benefits to establish a sufficient nexus to subject Appellant to taxation. Northwestern States Portland Cement Co. v. Minnesota, 358 U.S. 450 (1959).
Both the Commonwealth and Appellant have extensively reviewed the unfolding liberalization of the law as it relates to state taxation of foreign corporations with varying degrees of connection with the taxing state. It may be beneficial for the disposition of the instant case to briefly review the law in this somewhat complex area.
Our inquiry begins with Roy Stone Transfer Corp. v. Messner, 377 Pa. 234, 103 A.2d 700 (1955), where the
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 215]
taxpayer, a foreign corporation, engaged exclusively in interstate commerce, having neither tangible or intangible property in Pennsylvania, nor any contracts, orders or solicitation within the Commonwealth, but, having merely the drivers of its trucks present in the state, successfully attacked, as unconstitutional as applied to it, the Corporation Income Tax of 1951. Clearly, the Court believed that at that time no nexus existed which would justify imposition of the tax. However, following Roy Stone, our Supreme Court decided Commonwealth v. Eastman-Kodak Company, 385 Pa. 607, 124 A.2d 100 (1956), wherein under a similar factual posture, notwithstanding the fact that the taxpayer had employees using company cars and soliciting business within the Commonwealth, the Court found Roy Stone controlling upholding the position of the taxpayer.
Next, Commonwealth v. United States Tobacco Company, 70 Dauph. 217 (1957) was decided. There the taxpayer was the self same as in the present action, and that court held that the taxpayer engaging in the same practices, then as now, was doing nothing more than the taxpayer in Eastman and, therefore, held U.S. Tobacco Company not subject to tax under the Corporation Income Tax Law. Then came the United States Supreme Court's landmark decision in Northwestern States Portland Cement Co. v. Minnesota, supra.*fn3 In Northwestern States Portland Cement, the constitutionality of two separate state taxing statutes was in issue. In the first, Minnesota attempted to tax a foreign corporation engaged in the manufacture and sale of cement where the foreign corporation leased an office and staffed it with a manager, two salesmen and a secretary, and where those salesmen used company cars to solicit orders which were subject to acceptance and delivery by the home office. The second case involved a Georgia tax measure imposing a tax upon
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 216]
foreign corporations, and was factually similar to the Minnesota case. The Supreme Court there stated, citing from its prior opinion in Wisconsin v. J. C. Penney Co., 311 U.S. 435 (1940):
"[T]he 'controlling question is whether the state has given anything for which it can ask in return.' Since by the practical operation of [the] tax the state has exerted its power in relation to opportunities which it has given, to protection which it has afforded, to benefits which it has conferred . . .' it 'is free to pursue its own fiscal policies, unembarrassed by the Constitution.'" Northwestern Portland Cement, supra, 358 U.S. at 465.
By validating the state taxing statutes involved, the Supreme Court immeasurably broadened the power of the state to tax foreign corporations engaged exclusively in interstate commerce with the most minimal of connections to the taxing state.*fn4 Seemingly in response thereto,
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 217]
Congress enacted Act of September 14, 1959, 15 U.S.C. § 381 et seq., which, in general, prohibited a state from imposing a net income tax upon a corporation engaged in interstate commerce within the state, where that business activity resulted from mere solicitation.*fn5
Therefore, upon review of the law of state taxation of foreign corporations, engaged in interstate commerce, it becomes clear that up to this point in time the pivotal question was whether there was a situation in which the missionary men of Appellant merely solicited business or, whether a solicitation-plus situation existed which would allow the Commonwealth to subject Appellant to taxation.
The Commonwealth, in defense of its imposition of tax, relies heavily on the most recent Supreme Court
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 218]
pronouncement in the area in Standard Press Steel Company v. State of Washington, 419 U.S. 560 (1975), and Colonial Pipeline Company v. Traigle, U.S. , 95 S. Ct. 1538 (1975). It asserts that these cases held that almost anything beyond solicitation alone will establish a sufficient nexus to tax. In Standard Press Steel, the State of Washington attempted to tax the taxpayer under its business and occupation tax levied upon unapportioned gross receipts. The taxpayer employed one engineer whose office was in his home and whose primary duty was to consult with the company's Washington customer, Boeing, concerning anticipated needs of that customer. Further, he arranged for three of his firm's engineers to visit Boeing once every six weeks. No orders were taken by the employee and orders accepted would be filled, and shipment made by common carriers, seemingly meeting the criteria of 15 U.S.C. § 381 et seq. All payments were made directly to the taxpayer's home office. The employee in Washington did maintain an answering service in State, but the bills for the service were sent to the home office. On these facts, the Supreme Court found the Washington tax constitutional as applied to Standard Press Steel and stated:
"In other words, the question is 'whether the state has given anything for which it can ask in return,' . . . . We think the question in the present case verges on frivolous. For Appellant's employee, Martinson, with a full-time job within the state, made possible the realization and continuance of valuable contractual relations between Appellant and Boeing." Standard Press Steel, supra, 419 U.S. at 562. (Citations omitted.) (Emphasis added.)
The instant case presents a factual posture whereby even accepting a view of the record most favorable to Appellant, i.e., that its missionary men were merely present to promote company good will throughout the
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 219]
territory,*fn6 it cannot be denied that their presence made possible the realization and continuance of valuable contractual relations and so there is established sufficient nexus for the imposition of the Corporation Income Tax pursuant to the standard enunciated in Standard Press Steel.
II. ADD BACK
Turning to Appellant's claim that the add back was improper, we are compelled to say that our recent decision in Triumph Hosiery Mills, Inc. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 19 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 186, 343
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 220]
A. 2d 710 (1975) may well be dispositive. In that case, President Judge Bowman, harmonizing Sections 401(3)1 and 401(3)2 of the Code, 72 P.S. §§ 7401(3)1, 7401(3)2, provisions of the Corporate Net Income Tax of Article IV of the Code, wrote:
"Therefore, we adopt the Commonwealth's interpretation of sections 401(3)1 and 401(3)2. When computing its tax base for purposes of the Pennsylvania corporate net income tax, a corporation whose entire business is not transacted in Pennsylvania may apportion its taxable income except insofar as said
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 221]
taxable income represents the 'add back' of that corporation's federal tax deduction for the Pennsylvania corporate net income tax." Triumph Hosiery Mills, Inc. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 21 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. at 190, 343 A.2d at 713. (Emphasis added.)
Further, that opinion dealt with, and dismissed, the precise constitutional objections raised in the instant case. Therefore, the question for us to determine is whether the add back provision contained in the Corporate Net Income Tax, previously construed and validated by this Court, is either present in, or alluded to, in the Corporation Income Tax. If so, the rationale of Triumph Hosiery Mills is dispositive.
The Corporation Income Tax, here in issue, defines taxable income in Section 501(3) of the Code, 72 P.S. § 7501(3) as follows:
"(3) 'Taxable income.'
"1. Taxable income shall be defined as set forth in Article IV.
"2. In the case of corporations owning property or carrying on activities within and without this Commonwealth, the taxable income of such corporations derived from sources within the Commonwealth for the fiscal or calendar year shall be determined by allocations and apportionments of taxable income as set forth in Article IV." (Emphasis added.)
As previously noted, Article IV is the Corporate Net Income Tax.*fn7 The Legislature was explicit in Article V in requiring taxable income to be computed as if under Article IV, thus necessitating the inclusion of the add back. Given this legislative pronouncement we can hold no other way but that Triumph Hosiery Mills controls.
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 222]
Accordingly, we enter the following
And Now, this 5th day of December, 1975, unless exceptions are filed hereto within thirty (30) days, the Chief Clerk is hereby directed to enter judgment against United States Tobacco Company and in favor of the Commonwealth, in the amount of $70,878.52. The Chief Clerk is further directed to mark said judgment "satisfied" inasmuch as the full amount of said judgment has been paid by United States Tobacco Company.
Judgment entered for Commonwealth and against taxpayer.
Dissenting Opinion by Judge Rogers:
I respectfully dissent.
The United States Tobacco Company is a New Jersey corporation engaged in the manufacture and sale of tobacco products. During the tax year here in question it maintained no manufacturing plants in Pennsylvania; it had no inventory of its products in this State; it maintained no offices in Pennsylvania; it had no bank accounts here; it maintained no corporate records here; and it held no corporate meetings in Pennsylvania.
The sole contact or connection of United States Tobacco Company with Pennsylvania was through so-called missionary representatives whose sole functions were to solicit orders. These individuals did not accept orders, adjust or settle claims or collect accounts. They were without agency powers and were not permitted to change any price list or other rule of their employer. They were hired by, controlled and paid from an out-of-state office.
The missionary representatives traveled about the State in company owned cars which constituted the only tangible property of the United States Tobacco Company located in Pennsylvania. The missionary representatives carried a limited supply of their employer's products purchased by them at cost from wholesalers which they either gave outright or sold to retailers at the wholesale
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 223]
price. The purpose of carrying these small quantities of products was to provide them to retailers in introducing new items or replacing stale stock in trade. There was no profit realized on the disposition of these items and they were carried and used solely for promotional purposes and as aids in the solicitation of orders.
On exactly these facts the United States Tobacco Company was held not to be subject to the Pennsylvania corporation income tax in Commonwealth v. United States Tobacco Company, 70 Dauphin 217 (1957).
In Northwestern States Portland Cement Company v. Minnesota, 358 U.S. 450 (1959), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of state income tax impositions with respect to taxpayers engaged exclusively in interstate commerce where the sole activity of the taxpayers other than the solicitation of orders was the maintenance of an office and equipment in the taxing states. As the majority herein notes, Congress, in response to the Northwestern States decision, enacted P.L. 86-272, 15 U.S.C.A. § 381 et seq., denying states the power to impose taxes on the income of persons engaging in interstate commerce whose only business activity within the taxing state was that of the solicitation of orders. Since the activities of the United States Tobacco Company are limited to the activities of the company's missionary representatives, there seems to this writer to be no warrant for overruling Commonwealth v. United States Tobacco Company, supra.
The only authorities for so drastically changing the law advanced by the majority are Standard Pressed Steel Company v. State of Washington, 419 U.S. 560 (1975), and Colonial Pipeline Company v. Traigle, U.S. , 44 L.Ed.2d 1 (1975). Those cases are clearly distinguishable on the facts. Standard Pressed Steel Company was a manufacturer of metal fasteners with a home office in Pennsylvania and plants in Pennsylvania and California. Boeing Aircraft Company was a valued customer located in the State of Washington. Standard Pressed Steel had
[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 224]
one employe permanently located in Washington. He was an engineer who consulted with Boeing regarding its anticipated needs for his employer's products and followed up difficulties in use of its fasteners. Standard Pressed Steel about every six weeks sent a group of its engineers to visit Boeing and meet with the latter's people on engineering problems respecting the use of the fasteners. The Supreme Court concluded that the taxpayer's engineering activities within Washington were substantial and justified the tax imposed by that state. Neither Standard Pressed Steel's full time employe nor the visiting engineers were engaged in soliciting orders for sales, as was United States Tobacco Company's only activity here.
Colonial Pipeline Company v. Traigle, supra, is also clearly distinguishable. There the taxpayer was held to have submitted to the taxing power of Louisiana by having voluntarily qualified to do business there and by maintaining employes within that state to inspect and maintain a portion of its pipeline there located. Again, the taxpayer's employes were engaged in activities other than the mere solicitation of orders to be filled from the home office.
It is my belief that the majority's holding almost obliterates the immunity conferred by the Commerce Clause and that it fails to give effect to the will of Congress expressed by P.L. 86-276.
It is further clearly contrary to the time-honored principle that "where a corporation chooses to stay at home in all respects except to send abroad advertising or drummers to solicit orders which are sent directly to the home office for acceptance, filling, and delivery back to the buyer, it is obvious that the State of the buyer has no local grip on the seller." Norton Co. v. Department of Revenue, 340 U.S. 534, 537 (1951).
I would sustain the appeal.