Home Ins. Co. v. New York
119 U.S. 129 (1886)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Home Ins. Co. v. New York, 119 U.S. 129 (1886)

Home Insurance Company v. New York

Argued October 25-26, 1886

Decided November 15, 1886

119 U.S. 129

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

Syllabus

The State of New York, by statute, imposed a tax upon the "corporate franchise or business" of corporations within the state of one quarter mill upon the capital stock for each one percent of dividend of six percent or over. The Home Insurance Company claimed exemption from this tax upon so much of its capital as was invested in bonds of the United States which, by the acts of Congress under which they were issued, were exempt from state taxation. In a proceeding to enforce the collection of the tax, the supreme court of New York gave judgment for its recovery, which judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals of that state. This Court affirms the judgment by a divided Court.

This was a proceeding commenced in the supreme court of New York to recover a tax imposed upon the plaintiff in error under the provisions of the Act of the legislature of that state of June 1, 1580, Laws of 1880, c. 542, as amended by the Act of May 26, 1881, Laws of 1881, c. 361. The following are the material provisions of the Act of 1881 relating to the controversy.

"SECTION 1. Chapter five hundred and forty-two of the laws of eighteen hundred and eighty, entitled 'An act to provide for raising taxes for the use of the state upon certain corporations,

Page 119 U. S. 130

joint-stock companies, and associations,' is hereby amended so as to read as follows:"

" § 1. Hereafter it shall be the duty of the president or treasurer of every association, corporation, or joint-stock company liable to be taxed on its corporate franchise or business, as provided in section three of this act, to make report in writing to the comptroller, annually, on or before the fifteenth day of November, stating specifically the amount of capital paid in, the date, amount, and rate percent in of each and every dividend declared by their respective corporations, joint-stock companies, or associations, during the year ending with the 1st day of said month. In all cases where any such corporation, joint-stock company, or association shall fail to make or declare any dividend upon either its common or preferred stock during the year ending as aforesaid, or in case the dividend or dividends made or declared upon either its common or preferred stock during the year ending as aforesaid shall amount to less than six percent upon the par value of the said common or preferred stock, the treasurer and secretary thereof, after being duly sworn or affirmed to do and perform the same with fidelity, according to the best of their knowledge and belief, shall, between the 1st and fifteenth days of November in each year in which no dividend has been made or declared as aforesaid, or in which the dividend or dividends made or declared upon either its common or preferred stock amounted to less than six percent upon the par value of said common or preferred stock, estimate and appraise the capital stock of such company upon which no dividend has been made or declared, or upon the par value of which the dividend or dividends made or declared amounted to less than six percent at its actual value in cash, not less, however, than the average price which said stock sold for during said year; and, when the same shall have been so truly estimated and appraised, they shall forthwith forward to the comptroller a certificate thereof, accompanied by a copy of their said oath

Page 119 U. S. 131

or affirmation, by them signed, and attested by the magistrate or other person qualified to administer the same, provided, that if the comptroller is not satisfied with the valuation so made and returned, he is hereby authorized and empowered to make a valuation thereof, and to settle an account upon the valuation so made by him for the taxes, penalties, and interest due the state thereon, and any association, corporation, or joint-stock company dissatisfied with the account so settled, may within ten days appeal therefrom to a board consisting of the secretary of state, attorney general, and state treasurer, which board, on such appeal, shall affirm or correct the account so settled by the comptroller, and the decision of said board shall be final; but such appeal shall not stay proceedings unless the full amount of the taxes, penalties, and interest, as due on said account, as settled by the comptroller, be deposited with the state treasurer."

" § 3. Every corporation, joint-stock company, or association whatever, now or hereafter incorporated or organized under any law of this state, . . . shall be subject to and pay a tax, as a tax upon its corporate franchise or business, into the treasury of this state, annually, to be computed as follows: if the dividend or dividends made or declared by such corporation, joint-stock company, or association during any year ending with the first day of November amount to six or more than six percent upon the par value of its capital stock, then the tax to be at the rate of one-quarter mill upon the capital stock for each one percent of dividend so made or declared, or, if no dividend be made or declared, or if the dividends made or declared do not amount to six percent upon the par value of said capital stock, then the tax to be at the rate of one and one-half mills upon each dollar of a valuation of the said capital stock made in accordance with the provision of the first section of this act, and in case any such corporation, joint-stock company, or association shall have

Page 119 U. S. 132

more than one kind of capital stock, as, for instance, common and preferred stock, and upon one of said stocks a dividend or dividends amounting to six or more than six percent upon the par value thereof has been made or declared, and upon the other no dividend has been made or declared, or the dividend or dividends made or declared thereon amount to less than six percent upon the par value thereof, then the tax shall be at the rate of one-quarter mill for each one percent of dividend made or declared upon the capital stock upon the par value of which the dividend or dividends made or declared amount to six or more than six percent, and in addition thereto tax shall be charged at the rate of one and one-half mills upon each dollar of a valuation, made also in accordance with the provisions of this act, of the capital stock upon which no dividend was made or declared, or upon the par value of which the dividend or dividends made or declared did not amount to six percent."

An "Agreed Case" was made pursuant to the Code of New York presenting state questions for determination, and also a federal question. The parts of the case which relate to the latter question are as follows:

"I. The Home Insurance Company is, and for more than a year prior to November 1, 1881, had been, a domestic fire insurance company."

"II. The capital stock of the Home Insurance Company at all times during the year ending November 1, 1881, was $3,000,000, divided into thirty thousand shares of the par value of one hundred dollars each, all full paid."

"III. In the month of January, and also in the month of July, 1881, a dividend of $150,000 was declared by the said company. These were the only dividends declared or made during the year ending November 1, 1881, and amounted to ten percent upon the par value of the capital stock thereof."

"IV. During the year 1881, the said company had part of its capital invested in bonds of the United States, being obligations of the United States, which, by the acts of Congress under which they are issued, are exempt from state taxation, viz., on January 1, 1881, and when the dividend was declared in that

Page 119 U. S. 133

month it held such bonds of the par value of $3,300,000; on the first day of July, 1881, and when the dividend was declared in that month, and on November 1, 1881, and when the report hereinafter mentioned was made, it held such bonds of the par value of $1,940,000."

"V. On or before November 15, 1881, the report described in § 1 of c. 542 of the Laws of 1880, as amended by c. 361 of the Laws of 1881, was duly made to the then Comptroller of the State of New York, on behalf of the said company."

"VI. Within fifteen days after January 1, 1882, the Home Insurance Company tendered to the then comptroller of the State of New York a tax at the rate of one and one-quarter mills percent upon the sum of $1,060,000. The said tender was rejected by the said comptroller. . . . The said company has ever since been, and now is, ready and willing to pay the amount so tendered to the said comptroller if it shall be adjudged that said acts of 1880 and 1881 are valid in respect of the tax herein controverted."

The Home Insurance Company claims:

"* * * *"

"(2) That so much of the laws of New York as may require a tax to be paid upon the capital stock of the said company, without deducting from the amount so to be paid a sum bearing the same ratio thereto as the amount of the paid-in capital stock of the said company, invested in bonds of the United States, bears to the total amount of the paid-in capital stock of the said company, is unconstitutional and void."

The supreme court of New York at General Term adjudged that the company was liable to pay the tax. This judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, 92 N.Y. 328. The case was remanded to the supreme court and final judgment entered there in accordance with the decision and mandate of the Court of Appeals. This writ of error was sued out to review that final judgment.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE announced that the judgment of the supreme court of the State of New York was

Affirmed by a Divided Court.

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