Western Union Tel. Co. v. Alabama State Board of Assessment - 132 U.S. 472 (1889)
U.S. Supreme Court
Western Union Tel. Co. v. Alabama State Board of Assessment, 132 U.S. 472 (1889)
Western Union Telegraph Company v. Alabama State Board of Assessment
Submitted November 15, 1889
Decided December 16, 1889
132 U.S. 472
No tax can be imposed by a state upon telegraphic messages sent by a company which has accepted the provisions of Rev.Stat. §§ 5263-5268, or upon the receipts derived therefrom, where the communication is carried either into the state from without or from within the state to another state.
A statute of Alabama imposed a tax "on the gross amount of the receipts by any and every telegraph company derived from the business done by it in this state." The Western union Telegraph Company reported to the board of assessors only its gross receipts received from business wholly transacted within the state. The board required of the company a further return of its gross receipts from messages carried partly within and partly without the state. The company made such farther return and the tax was imposed upon its gross receipts as shown by the two returns. Held that the statute of Alabama thus construed was a regulation of commerce, and that the tax imposed upon the messages comprised in the second return was unconstitutional.
The facts which raised the federal question are stated in the opinion.