Indian Motocycle Co. v. United States - 283 U.S. 570 (1931)
U.S. Supreme Court
Indian Motocycle Co. v. United States, 283 U.S. 570 (1931)
Indian Motocycle Co. v. United States
Argued April 25, 1929
Reargued October 24, 27, 1930
Decided May 25, 1931
283 U.S. 570
1. A certificate from the Court of Claims presenting a question of law, suitably distinct and definite, may be entertained although it be apparent that, with the facts as settled by an agreed statement accepted below, a decision of the question, either way, will be decisive of the case. P. 573.
2. The tax laid by § 600 of the Revenue Act of 1924 upon certain specified articles, including motorcycles, "sold . . . by the manufacturer . . . " equivalent to 5% of the price for which they are so sold, the statute requiring the manufacturers to make return of their sales and to pay the tax, is an excise on the sale, and not on the manufacturer or on the manufacture and sale. P. 283 U. S. 573.
3. The principle that the instrumentalities, means and operations whereby the states exert their governmental powers are exempt from taxation by the United States is not affected by the amount of the particular tax or the extent of the resulting interference, but is absolute. P. 283 U. S. 575.
4. Where a motorcycle is sold by its manufacturer to a municipal corporation of a state for use by such corporation in its police service, the transaction cannot constitutionally be taxed by the United States under § 600 of the Revenue Ac of 1924. Pp. 283 U. S. 572, 283 U. S. 579,
5. In Metcalf & Eddy v. Mitchell, 269 U. S. 514, 269 U. S. 526; Wheeler Lumber Bridge & Supply Co. v. United States, 281 U. S. 572, 281 U. S. 579, and Willcuts v. Bunn, 282 U. S. 216, 282 U. S. 225, the taxes in question were not laid on transactions involving an exercise of governmental functions, and their bearing on governmental operations was so indirect or remote as to place them outside the principle which is applicable here. P. 283 U. S. 579.
Response to a question certified by the Court of Claims in a suit to recover money collected as a sales tax.