Louis K. Liggett Co. v. LeeAnnotate this Case
288 U.S. 517 (1933)
U.S. Supreme Court
Louis K. Liggett Co. v. Lee, 288 U.S. 517 (1933)
Louis K. Liggett Co. v. Lee
Argued January 12, 13, 1933
Decided March 13, 1933
288 U.S. 517
APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA
1. A state tax (Florida Laws 1931, c. 15624) on the privilege of opening and maintaining stores fixed at so much per store without regard to value or volume of business, and increasing progressively with the number of stores maintained by the owners taxed, is not in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because of the resulting discrimination against them and in favor of owners of single and department stores or the owners of distinct stores in voluntary cooperation. State Board of Tax Comm'rs v. Jackson,283 U. S. 527. P. 288 U. S. 532.
2. A state statutory provision laying a heavier privilege tax per store on the owner whose stores are in different counties than on the owner whose stores are all in the same county is arbitrary and void. P. 288 U. S. 533.
3. The county line furnishes no rational basis for such a classification. Id.
4. There is nothing in the Florida statute here in question indicating that the discrimination based on counties was directed against so-called "national chains" of stores, in contrast with "local chains," or against corporate owners, distinguished from individuals, or large owners distinguished from small. P. 288 U. S. 534.
5. Assuming the State had power to suppress by taxation a form of organization deemed inimical to the public interest, no such motive can be attributed to the present statute in the absence of legislative declaration or record proof. P. 288 U. S. 535.
6. Corporations are as much entitled to the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment as are natural persons. P. 288 U. S. 536.
7. Unequal treatment and arbitrary discrimination as between corporations and natural persons, or between different corporations, inconsistent with the declared object of the legislation, cannot be justified by the assumption that a different classification for a wholly different purpose might be valid. P. 288 U. S. 536.
8. The provision authorizing counties and municipalities to levy license taxes on stores, to be graduated only on the number of stores situated within their respective limits, is constitutional. P. 288 U. S. 537.
9. A higher state tax on the goods held in storage by chain stores for retail sale in their own shops than on the goods stored by wholesalers, to be sold to retailers, is consistent with the equal protection clause. P. 288 U. S. 537.
10. Taxing chain stores generally by graduated license taxes but excepting filling stations engaged exclusively in the sale of gasoline or other petroleum products, that business being otherwise taxed by license and by a tax per gallon of products sold, held consistent with the equal protection clause. P. 288 U. S. 538.
11. The Fourteenth Amendment does not prevent a state from imposing differing taxes upon different trades and professions or varying the rates of excise upon various products. P. 288 U. S. 538.
12. State taxes for the privilege of operating stores within the state and on the value of the goods warehoused in the state for sale in such stores held consistent with the commerce clause. P. 288 U. S. 538.
13. A person is not exempted by the equal protection clause from paying a state tax because the tax is not collected by the state officials from others who are equally liable. Cumberland Coal Co. v. Board of Revision,284 U. S. 23; Iowa-Des Moines Nat. Bank v. Burnett,284 U. S. 239, distinguished. P. 288 U. S. 539.
14. The remedy in such cases for taxpayers in Florida is by writ of mandamus commanding the tax officers to collect the omitted taxes. P. 288 U. S. 540.
15. When, in a case from a state court, this Court finds that a part of a state statute is unconstitutional, it has jurisdiction to decide the question of state law whether the remainder is preserved by a saving clause, but may leave that determination to the courts of the state. P. 288 U. S. 541.
104 Fla. 609, 141 So. 153, reversed.
Appeal from a decree affirming the dismissal of the bill in a suit to enjoin state taxing officers from enforcing an Act laying a discriminatory tax on chain stores.
MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Chapter 15624 of the Laws of Florida, 1931, declares it unlawful for any person, firm, corporation, association, or copartnership, foreign or domestic, to operate any store within the state without first having obtained a license, designates the officer to whom application shall be made, regulates the procedure for issuance of licenses, and provides for annual renewal. The act requires the payment of a filing fee, and, by § 5, which is copied in the margin, *
fixes the amount of the license fee. A tax greater than that exacted for a single store is fixed for each store in excess of one, but not exceeding fifteen, owned or operated by the same person or corporation. The fee for each store is stepped up in amount as the number constituting the chain reaches certain specified limits. This graduated scale applies to stores all of which are within a single county, but if the same number of stores is located in more than one county, the license fee for each is materially increased.
The act imposes the tax only on retail stores and excludes from the definition of a store filling stations engaged exclusively in the sale of gasoline and other petroleum products. It provides for a separate county license tax equal to 25 percent of the state license fee, and authorizes a municipal tax of the same amount, measuring the graduated tax in the case of counties and municipalities by the number of stores situate
in the county or municipality, notwithstanding the applicant may own other stores beyond the limits of the governmental subdivision.
In addition to the described license taxes, the act imposes a levy of $3 for each $1,000 of value of stock carried in each store, or for sale in such store, and this is defined to include merchandise owned by the taxpayer and held in storage to be sold in or through such store.
Three chain store owners filed in the Circuit Court of Leon County, Florida, a class bill in which twelve others intervened and became co-plaintiffs, praying that the tax officials be enjoined from enforcing the act. The complainants are corporations of Florida and other states. They challenge the statute as violative of various provisions of the Constitution of Florida, of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and of the commerce clause of the Federal Constitution.
The bill sets forth in great detail facts claimed to assimilate the operation of chain stores to that of stores individually owned and operated in the State of Florida. So-called voluntary chains of retail stores are described at length, and their methods of operation compared with those of chain stores, the purpose being to demonstrate that there is no essential difference between the two methods of conducting business. On the basis of the facts recited, the bill charges that to tax a store operated in the one manner and exempt an establishment conducted in the other is arbitrary and unreasonable. The difference in the amount of tax laid upon the operator of a given number of stores in a single county and another conducting the same number in two or more counties is challenged as an unconstitutional discrimination. The imposition of a tax of $3 per $1,000 on retail merchants, not only as respects the stock actually contained in their stores, but also on goods in warehouse intended for sale in such stores, is attacked as discriminatory for the reason that, under another statute, wholesale merchants are taxed only $1.50 per $1,000 of merchandise carried in their stores or warehouses. The exemption of filling stations is alleged to discriminate against the appellants in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The bill further avers that certain of the plaintiffs receive their goods from warehouses maintained outside the State of Florida, or order shipments to their stores from wholesale houses situate without the state, whereas many operators of single stores who are members of voluntary chains obtain their supplies from wholesalers in Florida, or from a warehouse in the state conducted by a voluntary chain corporation. The unequal effect of the act on these transactions is charged to be an unconstitutional burden upon interstate commerce.
The defendants moved to dismiss. The cause was heard upon this motion and a decree entered dismissing the bill at complainants' costs. The Supreme Court of
Florida affirmed the decree. The present appeal presents only the questions arising under the Federal Constitution.
1. In support of the allegation of arbitrary and unreasonable discrimination, the bill recites facts from which appellants claim the conclusion is inevitable that there is no difference between the method of conducting chain stores and those employed in department stores, so-called voluntary chains, and singly operated units. This is but a reiteration of the contention made and overruled in State Board of Tax Commissioners v. Jackson,283 U. S. 527. It was there held that, whatever may be said of individual similarities and differences between chain store operation and the conduct of a single shop or a department store, the former employ distinguishable methods of conducting business, and the legislature may make the difference in method and character of the business the basis of classification for taxation. In their bill, the complainants aver that the fact situation in Florida at the date of suit differed materially from that set forth in the Jackson case. Each of the features of chain store operation enumerated in this Court's opinion is singled out, and, as respects each, the averment is that as to some chain store operators, or some operators of individual stores, the present case differs from the Jackson case.
In their endeavor thus to distinguish the earlier case, the appellants stress mere details, but ignore the underlying reason for sustaining the classification there attacked. The decision in the Jackson case was based not upon any single feature of chain store management, but upon the ultimate fact of common knowledge, illustrated and emphasized by the evidence, that the conduct of a chain of stores constitutes a form and method of merchandising quite apart from that adapted to the practice of the ordinary individually operated small store or department store, and that the difference between an integrated and a voluntary chain is fundamental. While
incidents of the operation of the one may be quite similar to those found in the other, there is a clear distinction between one owner operating many stores and many owners each operating his own store with a greater or less measure of cooperation voluntarily undertaken. The legislature may make the distinction the occasion of classification for purposes of taxation. Neither similarity of opportunities and advantages in some aspects nor the fact that the one kind of store competes with the other is enough to condemn the discrimination in the taxes imposed. It is needless to repeat what was said in the Jackson case to the effect that the difference between the subjects taxed need not be great, and that, if any reasonable distinction can be found, the duty of the Court is to sustain the classification embodied in the law.
2. The statute lays a tax of a stated sum per store on any given number of stores in the same ownership located within the same county, but, if one happens to be in a county other than that in which the remainder are situate, imposes an increased tax not only on the single one lying in the second county, but on all. Thus, if an owner has fourteen stores, he may add a fifteenth in the same county, and the only additional tax will be in the amount of $10 attributable to the privilege of conducting the new store. But if the new store happens to be in another county, the license fee for it will be increased to $15, and that for each of the other fourteen, which have long since been opened and operated in the original county, will be increased from $10 to $15.
We are unable to discover any reasonable basis for this classification. As we have held, gradation of the tax according to the number of units operated cannot be said to be so unreasonable as to transcend the constitutional powers of the legislature. The addition of a store to an existing chain is a privilege, and an increase of the tax on all the stores for the privilege of expanding the chain cannot
be condemned as arbitrary; but an increase in the levy not only on a new store, but on all the old stores, consequent upon the mere physical fact that the new one lies a few feet over a county line finds no foundation in reason or in any fact of business experience. There is no more reason for adopting the county line as the measure of the tax than there would be for taking ward lines in cities, or arbitrary lines drawn through the state regardless of county boundaries. It is suggested that the license fee for extending operations into a great and populous city, or for doing business upon crowded business streets, should be greater than for the same privilege in a village or a sparsely settled suburb. But the adoption of a county line can have no reference either to density of population, congregation of the buying public, or any other factor bearing upon the choice of a business site.
The appellees suggest that an owner reaps greater advantage by the establishment of a new store in a county not previously occupied. This may be conceded. It is evident, however, that the mere spatial relation between the store and a county line cannot, in and of itself, affect the value of the privilege enjoyed. The appellees fail to show how the fact that the new place of business lies in another county increases the advantage over that to accrue from a location within the same county. The classification is solely of different chains, and the difference between them consists neither in number, size, surrounding population, nor in any factor having a conceivable relation to the privilege enjoyed.
It cannot justifiably be said that the section draws a distinction between national and local chains. The operation of the statute forbids any such assumption, for, if a national chain keeps multiple units within a single county, the tax on each is at the lower rate, while if a so-called local chain has one store in a given county and another just over the county line, both places of business
take the higher rate. This difference in treatment has no discernible relation to the sort of chain which establishes a store across a county line. The act is not a rough and ready but honest effort to differentiate what the Federal Census Bureau for its purposes denominates local chains, on the one hand, and what the Bureau terms sectional or national chains, on the other. Neither the phraseology nor the method of operation of the act is consistent with an attempt at any such classification.
The suggestion is made that the statute is in reality aimed solely at large corporate chains, and that, as none other are parties to this suit, we may ignore any discriminatory features as respects individual owners of multiple units. But this is to construe the act by pure speculation, and not by what it says, nor by any declared purpose, nor by anything contained in the record. Conceding for the purpose of the argument that, in levying the tax, the legislature might have drawn a distinction between corporate owners and individuals, and again between small owners, whether corporate or individual, and large owners, we are not permitted to guess at any such undisclosed purpose in the minds of those who adopted the statute. Assuming power to suppress by taxation a form of organization deemed inimical to the public interest, we can attribute no such motive to the present statute in the absence of legislative declaration or record proof. The act taxes ownership and operation of stores, not corporate nor large corporate operation. The exaction is based on the doing of a business, not on the personality of the merchant.
The title declares it "An Act Requiring Licenses for the Operation, Maintenance, Opening or Establishment of Stores in this state. . . ." Section 1 enacts
"That from and after the first day of October A.D.1931, it shall be unlawful for any person, firm, corporation, association or co-partnership, whether foreign or domestic, to operate,
maintain, open, or establish any store in this state without first having obtained a license. . . ."
It would violate every principle of statutory construction to hold that this plain language really means that individuals and small local corporations are not within the intendment of the act, but that it in fact applies only to so-called giant corporations. To attribute such a covert, hidden, and indirect purpose to those who passed the statute is, in effect, to charge the lawmakers with saying one thing and meaning another. Nothing said in O'Gorman & Young v. Hartford Fire Insurance Co.,282 U. S. 251, or any other decision of this Court, justifies such a pronouncement. The Legislature of Florida has declared the purpose and object of the statute to be to tax every store owner and operator, and we should not go behind that declaration and attribute to the lawmakers some other ulterior design. Corporations are as much entitled to the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment as are natural persons. Southern Ry. Co. v. Greene,216 U. S. 400; Kentucky Finance Corp. v. Paramount Auto Exchange,262 U. S. 544; Power Mfg. Co. v. Saunders,274 U. S. 490; Liggett Co. v. Baldridge,278 U. S. 105; Iowa-Des Moines National Bank v. Bennett,284 U. S. 239. Unequal treatment and arbitrary discrimination as between corporations and natural persons, or between different corporations, inconsistent with the declared object of the legislation, cannot be justified by the assumption that a different classification for a wholly different purpose might be valid.
Those provisions of § 5 which increase the tax if the owner's stores are located in more than one county are unreasonable and arbitrary, and violate the guaranties of the Fourteenth Amendment.
3. Section 11 of the act provides:
"A County license tax of twenty-five percent of the state license tax shall be levied and imposed upon each
store as herein, defined and each incorporated municipality of the Florida is authorized to levy a municipal license tax of twenty-five percent of the state tax imposed by this Act, provided that the tax levied by or for the several counties and municipalities shall be graduated only on the number of stores situate in such county or municipality, respectively, notwithstanding the applicant may own other stores beyond the limits of such county or municipality, as the case may be. . . ."
The attack upon this section is the same as that leveled against § 5, which ordains the license tax for state purposes. If, as we have held, it is permissible for the state for its own purposes to impose a tax on a graduated scale depending upon the number of units operated by the chain, it is equally so for a municipality to grade its taxation by the same method, when duly authorized by state authority.
4. Section 5, in addition to the graduated license fee, lays a tax of $3 on each $1,000 value of stock carried in each store, or for sale in such store, and § 2 includes within the goods, wares, and merchandise from which sales are to be made those owned by the taxpayer and held in storage to be sold in or through such store. The appellants insist that this requirement deprives them of the equal protection of the law for the reason that wholesale merchants not taxed by the act in question are assessed under § 926 of the Revised General Statutes of Florida a tax of only $1.50 per $1,000 of value on stock carried in their stores or warehouses. The result is said to be that a chain store operator must pay double the amount paid by the wholesaler who supplies individual stores competing with the chain.
Chain stores do not sell at wholesale. What they store, if they warehouse any goods in the State of Florida, is for the purpose of retail sale at their shops. On the other hand, goods held by a wholesaler are stored for sale to
retail establishments to be resold by the latter. What has been said with respect to difference in methods and operation of the two kinds of warehouses applies in this instance. The diverse purposes of the storage and difference in the nature of the business conducted are sufficient to justify a different classification of the two sorts of warehouses for taxation.
5. Section 8, which defines a store, contains a proviso to the effect that the term shall not include "filling stations engaged exclusively in the sale of gasoline and other petroleum products." The appellants assert the exemption deprives them of equal protection, since it is arbitrary and unreasonable. It appears, however, that all dealers in gasoline, including those conducting filling stations, are required by statute to pay a license tax of $5 per annum, and in addition a tax of 7 cents per gallon for every gallon of gasoline or other like products of petroleum sold (chaps. 15659 and 15788, Laws of Florida, Acts of 1931). It has long been settled that the Fourteenth Amendment does not prevent a state from imposing differing taxes upon different trades and professions or varying the rates of excise upon various products. Bell's Gap R. Co. v. Pennsylvania,134 U. S. 232, 134 U. S. 237; Southwestern Oil Co. v. Texas,217 U. S. 114, 217 U. S. 121-122. Clear and hostile discriminations against particular persons and classes, especially such as are of an unusual character, unknown to the practice of our governments, may be obnoxious to the Constitution, but, in view of the imposition of taxes on the operation of filling stations by other acts, pursuant to the legislature's power of classification, we cannot declare their exemption from the tax laid by the Chain Store Act offensive to the guaranties of the Fourteenth Amendment.
6. It is asserted that the act bears unevenly upon those who purchase directly from a wholesale house or manufacturer whose plant is outside the state, some of whom
also store the goods in Florida preparatory to retail sale, and those who purchase from a wholesaler within the state; that the former are engaged in interstate commerce, and the tax is as to them a burden upon that commerce. The claim merits no serious discussion. The tax is obviously laid for the privilege of operating stores in Florida, and attempts no discrimination between merchandise imported from another state and that produced in Florida. Compare Emert v. Missouri,156 U. S. 296; Armour & Co. v. Virginia,246 U. S. 1; Sonneborn Bros. v. Cureton,262 U. S. 506. It levies no tax and lays no burden on the purchase in interstate commerce of articles for sale in Florida. Kehrer v. Stewart,197 U. S. 60, 197 U. S. 65; East Ohio Gas Co. v. Tax Commission,283 U. S. 465, 283 U. S. 471. The tax on the value of merchandise in a retail store, or warehoused in Florida for sale in that store, even though incident on articles which have moved in interstate commerce, is laid after interstate commerce has ceased. Compare American Steel & Wire Co. v. Speed,192 U. S. 500; Bacon v. Illinois,227 U. S. 504; Texas Co. v. Brown,258 U. S. 466, 258 U. S. 475; Gregg Dyeing Co. v. Query,286 U. S. 472, 286 U. S. 478.
7. The bill avers that the state officials charged with the administration of the act have failed to demand the tax, and do not intend to collect it from the owners of stores in certain lines of business, such as furniture dealers. This alleged official dereliction is claimed to be an unconstitutional discrimination in the enforcement of the act. For this proposition, appellants rely upon decisions such as Cumberland Coal Co. v. Board of Revision,284 U. S. 23, and Iowa-Des Moines Nat. Bank v. Bennett,284 U. S. 239, holding a failure to assess all property taxed ad valorem at the same proportion of its value to be a denial of equal protection. The principle upon which those cases rest is that, where a statute lays a tax upon property ad valorem at an even and equal rate, discrimination
may result from the fact that the assessing officials systematically and intentionally value some property subject to the tax at a proportion of its true value different from that fixed with respect to other like property. They do not support the appellants' contention that, where the taxing officials fail and neglect to exact the tax from some persons alleged to owe it, all others who are subject to the levy are, in virtue of such omission, exempt. This Court has said that, in the case of unequal and discriminatory assessment, to hold that the complaining taxpayer's only remedy is to have the assessments on all the other property raised to a level equal with that of his own is, in effect, to deny any remedy whatever. As a consequence, redress is afforded by requiring the assessing body to revise the complainant's assessment to the level of those upon other like property. Appellants insist that, by analogy, they are entitled to be exempt if others are improperly relieved from taxation.
Under the law of Florida, every unit of the taxpaying public has an interest in having all property subject to taxation legally assessed, and may, in behalf of himself and others in like situation, require that all property subject to taxation be placed on the tax books and bear its proportionate part of the expense of government. The appellants, if they deem the tax illegally omitted in certain cases, may apply for a writ of mandamus to compel the taxing officials to do their duty. State ex rel. Dofnos Corp. v. Lehman, 100 Fla. 1401, 131 So. 333. Failure to collect the tax from some whose occupations fall within the provisions of the act cannot excuse the appellants from paying what they owe. And certainly the remedy afforded by state law assures them equal treatment along with all others similarly situated.
8. We are told that the Legislature of Florida would not have passed the act if any of its provisions were for
any reason to be inoperative, and we are asked therefore to declare the entire statute void.
Section 15 provides:
"If any section, provision, or clause of this Act shall be declared invalid or unconstitutional, or if this Act as applied to any circumstances shall be declared invalid or unconstitutional, such invalidity shall not be construed to effect the portions of this Act not so held to be invalid or the application of this Act to other circumstances not so held to be invalid."
The operation of this section consequent on our decision is a matter of state law. While we have jurisdiction of the issue, we deem it appropriate that we should leave the determination of the question to the state court. See King v. West Virginia,216 U. S. 92; Schneider Granite Co. v. Gast Realty & Inv. Co.,245 U. S. 288, 245 U. S. 290; Dorchy v. Kansas,264 U. S. 286, 264 U. S. 291.
The judgment is reversed, and the cause remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
Reversed and remanded.
"Section 5. Every person, firm, corporation, association or co-partnership opening, establishing, operating or maintaining one or more stores or mercantile establishments within this state under the same general management, supervision or ownership shall pay the license fee hereinafter prescribed for the privilege of opening, establishing, operating or maintaining such stores or mercantile establishments. The license fee herein prescribed shall be paid annually, and shall be in addition to the filing fee prescribed in Sections 2 and 4 of this Act."
"The license fees herein prescribed shall be as follows:"
"(1) Upon one store, the annual license fee shall be Five Dollars for each such store."
"(2) Upon two stores or more, but not exceeding fifteen stores, where the same are located in any one county, the annual license fee shall be Ten Dollars for each such additional store."
"(3) Upon two stores or more, but not to exceed fifteen stores, where the same are located in different counties, the annual license fee shall be Fifteen Dollars for each such additional store."
"(4) Upon each store in excess of fifteen, but not to exceed thirty, when all are located in any one county, the annual license fee shall be Fifteen Dollars for each such additional store."
"(5) Upon each store in excess of fifteen, but not to exceed thirty, where the same are located in different counties, the annual license fee shall be Twenty Dollars for each such additional store."
"(6) Upon each store in excess of thirty, but not to exceed fifty, where all are located in any one county, the annual license fee shall be Twenty Dollars for each such additional store."
"(7) Upon each store in excess of thirty, but not to exceed fifty, where the same are located in different counties, the annual license fee shall be Thirty Dollars for each such additional store."
"(8) Upon each store in excess of fifty, but not to exceed seventy-five stores, where all are located in any one county, the annual license fee shall be Thirty Dollars for each such additional store."
"(9) Upon each store in excess of fifty, but not to exceed seventy-five, where the same are located in different counties, the annual license fee shall be Forty Dollars for each such additional store."
"(10) Upon each store in excess of seventy-five, where all are located in any one county, the annual license fee shall be Forty Dollars for each such additional store."
"(11) Upon each store in excess of seventy-five, where the same are located in different counties, the annual license fee shall be Fifty Dollars for each such additional store."
"In addition to the above amounts, Three Dollars for each and every One Thousand Dollars of value of stock carried in each store or for sale in such store."
MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS, dissenting in part.
In my opinion, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida should be affirmed.
Florida Laws 1931, Chapter 15624, is legislation of the type popularly called Anti-Chain Store Laws. The statute provides for the licensing of retail stores by the state, the counties, and the municipalities -- a system under which large revenues may be raised. But the raising of revenue is obviously not the main purpose of the legislation. Its chief aim is to protect the individual, independently owned retail stores from the competition of chain stores. The statute seeks to do this by subjecting the latter to financial handicaps which may conceivably compel their withdrawal from the state. An injunction
against its enforcement is sought on the ground that the law violates rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
The Florida law is general in its terms. It prohibits the operation, after September 30, 1931, of any retail store without securing annually a license, and provides, among other things, for annual fees which are in part graduated. If the owner operates only one store, the state fee is $5; if more than one, the fee for the additional stores rises by step increases, dependent upon both the number operated and whether all operated are located in a single county. The highest fee is for a store in excess of 75. If all of the stores are located in a single county, the fee for each store in excess of 75 is $40; if all are not located in the same county, the fee is $50. Under this law, the owner of 100 stores not located in a single county pays for each store operated, on the average, $33.65, and if they were located in a single county, the owner would pay for each store, on the average, $25.20. If the 100 stores were independently owned (although operated cooperatively as a so-called "voluntary chain"), the annual fee for each would be only $5. The statute provides that the licenses shall issue to expire on September 30th of each calendar year. This suit was begun September 30, 1931. The first license year had expired before the case was heard in this Court.
In its main features, this statute resembles the Indiana law discussed in State Board of Tax Commissioners v. Jackson,283 U. S. 527. For the reasons there stated, the Court sustains like provisions in the Florida statute. But it declares arbitrary, and hence invalid, the novel provision imposing heavier license fees where the multiple stores of a single owner are located in more than one county because it is "unable to discover any reasonable basis for this classification." There is nothing in the record to show affirmatively that the provision may not be a reasonable one in
view of conditions prevailing in Florida. Since the presumption of constitutionality must prevail in the absence of some factual foundation of record for overthrowing the statute, its validity should, in my opinion, be sustained. O'Gorman & Young, Inc. v. Hartford Fire Insurance Co.,282 U. S. 251, 282 U. S. 257-258; Railway Express Agency v. Virginia,282 U. S. 440, 282 U. S. 444; Hardware Dealers Mutual Fire Ins. Co. v. Glidden Co.,284 U. S. 151, 284 U. S. 158; Boston & Maine R. Co. v. Armburg,285 U. S. 234, 285 U. S. 240; Lawrence v. State Tax Commission,286 U. S. 276, 286 U. S. 283.
There is, however, another ground on which this provision should be, and the whole statute could be, sustained -- a ground not considered in the Jackson case and not pertinent there. Jackson was an individual. The plaintiffs here are all corporations. Though the provisions of the statutes in the two states are similar, certain rules of law applicable to the parties to the litigation are different.
The plaintiffs are thirteen corporations which engage in Florida exclusively in intrastate commerce. Each (except one) owns and operates a chain of retail stores within the state, and some operate stores in more than one county. Several of the plaintiffs are organized under the laws of Florida; the rest under the laws of other states. No claim of discrimination as between the foreign and domestic corporations is made, compare Southern Ry. Co. v. Greene,216 U. S. 400; Hanover Fire Insurance Co. v. Harding,272 U. S. 494; nor could it be, since the statute affects both classes of corporations alike. The suit is brought as a class suit, for the benefit of all merchants similarly situated who may desire to avail themselves thereof. From certain allegations in the bill, it may be inferred that there are at least two natural persons within the state who own and operate more than one store. But, as no such person has intervened in the cause, we have no occasion to inquire whether the discrimination complained
of would be fatal as applied to natural persons. The plaintiffs can succeed only if the discrimination is unconstitutional as applied to them -- that is, as applied to corporations. One who would strike down a statute must show not only that he is affected by it, but that, as applied to him, it exceeds the power of the state. This rule, acted upon as early as Austin v. Boston, 7 Wall. 694, and definitely stated in Albany County v. Stanley,105 U. S. 305, 105 U. S. 314, has been consistently followed since that time. Compare Standard Stock Food Co. v. Wright,225 U. S. 540, 225 U. S. 550; Darnell v. Indiana,226 U. S. 390, 226 U. S. 398; Roberts & Schaefer Co. v. Emmerson,271 U. S. 50, 271 U. S. 54-55; Liberty Warehouse Co. v. Burley Tobacco Growers' Cooperative Marketing Assn.,276 U. S. 71, 276 U. S. 88. For the reasons to be stated, the discrimination complained of, and held arbitrary by the court, is, in my opinion, valid as applied to corporations.
First. The federal Constitution does not confer upon either domestic or foreign corporations the right to engage in intrastate commerce in Florida. The privilege of engaging in such commerce in corporate form is one which the state may confer or may withhold as it sees fit. Compare Railway Express Agency v. Virginia,282 U. S. 440. See Pembina Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania,125 U. S. 181, 125 U. S. 184-186; Horn Silver Mining Co. v. New York,143 U. S. 305, 143 U. S. 314; Hemphill v. Orloff,277 U. S. 537, 277 U. S. 548. Florida might grant the privilege to one set of persons and deny it to others; might grant it for some kinds of business and deny it for others; might grant the privilege to corporations with a small capital while denying it for those whose capital or resources are large. Or it might grant the privilege to private corporations whose shares are owned mainly by those who manage them and to corporations engaged in cooperative undertakings, while denying the privilege to other concerns called private, but whose shares are listed on a stock exchange -- corporations
financed by the public, largely through the aid of investment bankers. It may grant the privilege broadly, or restrict its exercise to a single county, city, or town, and to a single place of business within any such subdivision of the state.
Whether the corporate privilege shall be granted or withheld is always a matter of state policy. If granted, the privilege is conferred in order to achieve an end which the state deems desirable. It may be granted as a means of raising revenue, or in order to procure for the community a public utility, a bank, or a desired industry not otherwise obtainable; or the reason for granting it may be to promote more generally the public welfare by providing an instrumentality of business which will facilitate the establishment and conduct of new and large enterprises deemed of public benefit. Similarly, if the privilege is denied, it is denied because incidents of like corporate enterprise are deemed inimical to the public welfare and it is desired to protect the community from apprehended harm.
Here, we are dealing only with intrastate commerce. Compare Carley & Hamilton, Inc. v. Snook,281 U. S. 66, 281 U. S. 71. Since a state may fix the price for the privilege of doing intrastate commerce in corporate form, and the corporation is free to accept or reject the offer, the state may make the price higher for the privilege of locating stores in two counties than in one. Can it be doubted that a state, being free to permit or to prohibit branch banking, would be at liberty to exact a higher license fee from banks with branches than from those with only a single place of business; that it might exact a higher fee from those banks which have branches in several counties than it does from those whose branches are all within a single county, and that it might do so without obligation to justify, before some court, the reasonableness of the difference
in the license fees? [Footnote 1] The difference made by Florida in exacting a higher license fee for those concerns which do business in more than one county is similar in character to that suggested.
If the Florida statute had stated in terms that the license fee was exacted as compensation for the privilege of conducting multiple stores in corporate form, it seems clear that no corporation could successfully challenge its validity. Compare Horn Silver Mining Co. v. New York,143 U. S. 305; Kansas City, F.S. & M. Ry. Co. v. Botkin,240 U. S. 227; Nebraska ex rel. Beatrice Creamery Co. v. Marsh, 282 U.S. 799. And, since the state had the power so to do, the mere failure to state that such was the nature of the exaction does not render it invalid. Compare Castillo v. McConnico,168 U. S. 674, 168 U. S. 683. Nor does the fact that the plaintiffs had been admitted to the state prior to enactment of the statute. A state which freely granted the corporate privilege for intrastate commerce may change its policy. It may conclude, in the light of experience, that the grant of the privilege for intrastate commerce is harmful to the community, and may decide not to grant the privilege in the future. It may go further in the process of exclusion. It may revoke privileges theretofore granted, compare Hammond Packing Co. v. Arkansas,212 U. S. 322, 212 U. S. 343; Crescent Cotton Oil Co. v. Mississippi,257 U. S. 129, since, in the absence of contract, there is no vested interest which requires the continuance
of a legislative policy however expressed -- whether embodied in a charter or in a system of taxation. Citizens' Savings Bank v. Owensboro,173 U. S. 636, 173 U. S. 644; Texas & N.O. R. Co. v. Miller,221 U. S. 408, 221 U. S. 414-415; Erie R. Co. v. Williams,233 U. S. 685, 233 U. S. 701; Cheney Bros. Co. v. Massachusetts,246 U. S. 147, 246 U. S. 157. Compare Louisville Bridge Co. v. United States,242 U. S. 409.
If a state believes that adequate protection against harm apprehended or experienced can be secured, without revoking the corporate privilege, by imposing thereafter upon corporations the handicap of higher, discriminatory license fees as compensation for the privilege, I know of nothing in the Fourteenth Amendment to prevent it from making the experiment. The case at bar is not like those where a restriction upon the liberty of the individual may be attacked by showing that no evil exists or is apprehended, or that the remedy provided cannot be regarded as appropriate to its removal. Nor is the case like those where a state regulation or state taxes burden interstate commerce. Compare Welton v. Missouri,91 U. S. 275; Robbins v. Shelby County Taxing District,120 U. S. 489; Caldwell v. North Carolina,187 U. S. 622, 187 U. S. 626; Davis v. Farmers' Cooperative Equity Co.,262 U. S. 312; Buck v. Kuykendall,267 U. S. 307. Cases like Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Kansas,216 U. S. 1; Looney v. Crane Co.,245 U. S. 178; Terral v. Burke Construction Co.,257 U. S. 529, have no application to the situation here discussed.
Whether the citizens of Florida are wise in seeking to discourage the operation of chain stores is, obviously, a matter with which this Court has no concern. Nor need it, in my opinion, consider whether the differences in license fees employed to effect such discouragement are inherently reasonable, since the plaintiffs are at liberty to refuse to pay the compensation demanded for the corporate privilege and withdraw from the state, if they consider the price more than the privilege is worth. But a review of the legislation of the several states by which
all restraints on corporate size and activity were removed, and a consideration of the economic and social effects of such removal, will help to an understanding of Anti-Chain Store Laws, and will show that the discriminatory license fees prescribed by Florida, even if treated merely as a form of taxation, were laid for a purpose which may be appropriately served by taxation, and that the specific means employed to favor the individual retailer are not constitutionally objectionable.
Second. The prevalence of the corporation in America has led men of this generation to act, at times, as if the privilege of doing business in corporate form were inherent in the citizen, and has led them to accept the evils attendant upon the free and unrestricted use of the corporate mechanism as if these evils were the inescapable price of civilized life, and, hence to be borne with resignation. Throughout the greater part of our history, a different view prevailed. Although the value of this instrumentality in commerce and industry was fully recognized, incorporation for business was commonly denied long after it had been freely granted for religious, educational, and charitable purposes. [Footnote 2] It was denied because of fear. Fear of encroachment upon the liberties and opportunities of the individual. Fear of the subjection of labor to capital. Fear of monopoly. Fear that the absorption of capital by corporations, and their perpetual life, might bring evils similar to those which attended mortmain. [Footnote 3]
There was a sense of some insidious menace inherent in large aggregations of capital, particularly when held by corporations. So, at first, the corporate privilege was granted sparingly, and only when the grant seemed necessary in order to procure for the community some specific benefit otherwise unattainable. The later enactment of general incorporation laws does not signify that the apprehension of corporate domination had been overcome. The desire for business expansion created an irresistible demand for more charters, and it was believed that, under general laws embodying safeguards of universal application, the scandals and favoritism incident to special incorporation could be avoided. The general laws, which long embodied severe restrictions upon size and upon the scope of corporate activity, were, in part, an expression of the desire for equality of opportunity. [Footnote 4]
(a) Limitation upon the amount of the authorized capital of business corporations was long universal. [Footnote 5] The maximum limit frequently varied with the kinds of business to be carried on, being dependent apparently upon the supposed requirements of the efficient unit. Although the statutory limits were changed from time to time, this principle of limitation was long retained. Thus,
in New York, the limit was at first $100,000 for some businesses and as little as $50,000 for others. [Footnote 6] Until 1881, the maximum for business corporations in New York was $2,000,000, and until 1890, $5,000,000. [Footnote 7] In Massachusetts, the limit was at first $200,000 for some businesses and as little as $5,000 for others. [Footnote 8] Until 1871, the maximum for mechanical and manufacturing corporations was
In many other states, including the leading ones in some industries, the removal of the limitations upon size was more recent. Pennsylvania did not remove the limits
until 1905. [Footnote 11] Its first general act not having contained a maximum limit, that of $500,000 was soon imposed. [Footnote 12] Later, it was raised to $1,000,000, and, for iron and steel companies, to $5,000,000. [Footnote 13] Vermont limited the maximum to $1,000,000 until 1911, [Footnote 14] when no amount over $10,000,000 was authorized if, in the opinion of a judge of the supreme court, such a capitalization would tend "to create a monopoly or result in restraining competition in trade." [Footnote 15] Maryland limited until 1918 the capital of mining companies to $3,000,000, and prohibited them from holding more than 500 acres of land (except in Allegany County, where 1,000 acres was allowed). [Footnote 16] New Hampshire did not remove the maximum limit until 1919. [Footnote 17] It had been $1,000,000 until 1907, [Footnote 18] when it was increased to $5,000,000. [Footnote 19] Michigan did not remove the maximum limit until 1921. [Footnote 20] The maximum at first
$100,000, [Footnote 21] had been gradually increased until, in 1903, it became $10,000,000 for some corporations and $25,000,000 for others; [Footnote 22] and in 1917 became $50,000,000. [Footnote 23] Indiana did not remove until 1921 the maximum limit of $2,000,000 for petroleum and natural gas corporations. [Footnote 24] Missouri did not remove its maximum limit until 1927. [Footnote 25] Texas still has such a limit for certain corporations. [Footnote 26]
(b) Limitations upon the scope of a business corporation's powers and activity were also long universal. At first, corporations could be formed under the general laws only for a limited number of purposes -- usually those which required a relatively large fixed capital, like transportation, banking, and insurance, and mechanical, mining,
and manufacturing enterprises. [Footnote 27] Permission to incorporate for "any lawful purpose" [Footnote 28] was not common until 1875, and until that time, the duration of corporate franchises was generally limited to a period of 20, 30, or 50 years. [Footnote 29] All, or a majority, of the incorporators or directors, or both, were required to be residents of the incorporating state. [Footnote 30] The powers which the corporation might exercise in carrying out its purposes were sparingly conferred and strictly construed. Severe limitations were imposed on the amount of indebtedness, bonded or otherwise. [Footnote 31]
The power to hold stock in other corporations was not conferred or implied. [Footnote 32] The holding company was impossible.
(c) The removal by the leading industrial states of the limitations upon the size and powers of business corporations appears to have been due not to their conviction that maintenance of the restrictions was undesirable in itself, but to the conviction that it was futile to insist upon them, because local restriction would be circumvented by foreign incorporation. Indeed, local restriction seemed worse than futile. Lesser states, eager for the revenue [Footnote 33] derived from the traffic in charters, had removed safeguards from their own incorporation laws. [Footnote 34]
Companies were early formed to provide charters for corporations in states where the cost was lowest and the laws least restrictive. [Footnote 35] The states joined in advertising
lose wholly the prospect of the revenue and the control incident to domestic incorporation.
The history of the changes made by New York is illustrative. The New York revision of 1890, which eliminated the maximum limitation on authorized capital, and
permitted intercorporate stockholding in a limited class of cases, [Footnote 38] was passed after a migration of incorporation from New York, attracted by the more liberal incorporation laws of New Jersey. [Footnote 39] But the changes made by New York in 1890 were not sufficient to stem the tide. [Footnote 40] In
1892, the Governor of New York approved a special charter for the General Electric Company, modeled upon the New Jersey Act, on the ground that otherwise the enterprise would secure a New Jersey charter. [Footnote 41] Later in the same year, the New York corporation law was again revised, allowing the holding of stock in other corporations. [Footnote 42] But the New Jersey law still continued to be more attractive to incorporators. [Footnote 43] By specifically providing that corporations
might be formed in New Jersey to do all their business elsewhere, [Footnote 44] the state made its policy unmistakably clear. Of the seven largest trusts existing in 1904, with an aggregate capitalization of over two and a half billion dollars, all were organized under New Jersey law, and three of these were formed in 1899. [Footnote 45] During the first seven months of that year, 1,336 corporations were organized under the laws of New Jersey, with an aggregate authorized capital of over two billion dollars. [Footnote 46] The Comptroller of New York, in his annual report for 1899, complained that
"our tax list reflects little of the great wave of organization that has swept over the country during the past year and to which this state contributed more capital than any other state in the Union."
"It is time," he declared,
"that great corporations having their actual headquarters in this state and a nominal office elsewhere, doing nearly all of their business within our borders, should be brought within the jurisdiction of this state not only as to matters of taxation, but in respect to other and equally important affairs. [Footnote 47]"
In 1901, the New York corporation law was again revised. [Footnote 48]
The history in other states was similar. Thus, the Massachusetts revision of 1903 was precipitated by the fact that "the possibilities of incorporation in other states have become well known, and have been availed of to the detriment of this Commonwealth." [Footnote 49]
Third. Able, discerning scholars [Footnote 50] have pictured for us the economic and social results of thus removing all limitations upon the size and activities of business corporations
and of vesting in their managers vast powers once exercised by stockholders -- results not designed by the states and long unsuspected. They show that size alone gives to giant corporations a social significance not attached ordinarily to smaller units of private enterprise. Through size, corporations, once merely an efficient tool employed by individuals in the conduct of private business, have become an institution -- an institution which has brought such concentration of economic power that so-called private corporations are sometimes able to dominate the state. The typical business corporation of the last century, owned by a small group of individuals, managed by their owners, and limited in size by their personal wealth, is being supplanted by huge concerns in which the lives of tens or hundreds of thousands of employees and the property of tens or hundreds of thousands of investors are subjected, through the corporate mechanism, to the control of a few men. Ownership has been separated from control, and this separation has removed many of the checks which formerly operated to curb the misuse of wealth and power. And, as ownership of the shares is becoming continually more dispersed, the power which formerly accompanied ownership is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. The changes thereby wrought in the lives of the workers, of the owners, and of the general public are so fundamental and far-reaching as to lead these scholars to compare the evolving "corporate system" with the feudal system, and to lead other men of insight and experience to assert that this "master institution of civilized life" is committing it to the rule of a plutocracy. [Footnote 51]
The data submitted in support of these conclusions indicate that, in the United States, the process of absorption
has already advanced so far that perhaps two-thirds of our industrial wealth has passed from individual possession to the ownership of large corporations whose shares are dealt in on the stock exchange; [Footnote 52] that 200 nonbanking corporations, each with assets in excess of $90,000,000, control directly about one-fourth of all our national wealth, and that their influence extends far beyond the assets under their direct control; [Footnote 53] that these 200 corporations, while nominally controlled by about 2,000 directors, are actually dominated by a few hundred persons [Footnote 54] -- the negation of industrial democracy. Other writers have shown that, coincident with the growth of these giant corporations, there has occurred a marked concentration of individual wealth, [Footnote 55] and that the resulting disparity in
Fourth. Among these 200 corporations, each with assets in excess of $90,000,000, are five of the plaintiffs. These five have, in the aggregate, $820,000,000 of assets, [Footnote 58] and they operate, in the several states, an aggregate of 19,718 stores. [Footnote 59] A single one of these giants operates nearly 16,000. [Footnote 60] Against these, plaintiffs, and other owners of multiple stores, the individual retailers of Florida are engaged in a struggle to preserve their independence -- perhaps a struggle for existence. The citizens of the state, considering themselves vitally interested in this seemingly unequal struggle, have undertaken to aid the individual retailers by subjecting the owners of multiple stores to the handicap of higher license fees. They may have done so merely in order to preserve competition. But their purpose may have been a broader and deeper one. They may have believed that the chain store, by furthering the concentration of wealth and of power and by promoting absentee ownership, is thwarting American ideals; that it is making impossible equality of opportunity; that it is converting independent tradesmen into clerks, and that
it is sapping the resources, the vigor, and the hope of the smaller cities and towns. [Footnote 61]
The plaintiffs insist that no taxable difference exists between the owner of multiple stores and the owner of an individual store. A short answer to the contention has already been given, so far as required for the decision of this case. It is that the license fee is not merely taxation. The fee is the compensation exacted for the privilege of carrying on intrastate business in corporate form. As this privilege is one which a state may withhold or grant, it may charge such compensation as it pleases. Nothing in the Federal Constitution requires that the compensation demanded for the privilege should be reasonable. Moreover, since the authority to operate many stores, or to operate in two or more counties, is certainly a broader privilege than to operate only one store, or in only one county, there is in this record no basis for a finding that it is unreasonable to make the charge higher for the greater privilege.
A more comprehensive answer should, however, be given. The purpose of the Florida statute is not, like ordinary taxation, merely to raise revenue. Its main purpose is social and economic. The chain store is treated as a thing menacing the public welfare. The aim of the statute, at the lowest, is to preserve the competition of the
independent stores with the chain stores; at the highest, its aim is to eliminate altogether the corporate chain stores from retail distribution. The legislation reminds of that, by which Florida and other states, in order to eliminate the "premium system" in merchandising, exacted high license fees of merchants who offered trading stamps with their goods. Rast v. Van Deman & Lewis Co.,240 U. S. 342; Tranner v. Little,240 U. S. 369. Compare Central Lumber Co. v. South Dakota,226 U. S. 157; Singer Sewing Machine Co. v. Brickell,233 U. S. 304.
The plaintiffs discuss the broad question whether the power to tax may be used for the purpose of curbing, or of exterminating, the chain stores by whomsoever owned . It is settled that a state "may carry out a policy" by "adjusting its revenue laws and taxing system in such a way as to favor certain industries or forms of industry." Quong Wing v. Kirkendall,223 U. S. 59, 223 U. S. 62; Citizens' Telephone Co. v. Fuller,229 U. S. 322, 229 U. S. 329. [Footnote 62] And, since the Fourteenth Amendment "was not intended to compel the states to adopt an iron rule of equal taxation," Bell's Gap Railroad Co. v. Pennsylvania,134 U. S. 232, 134 U. S. 237, it may exempt from taxation kinds of business which it wishes to promote; American Sugar Refining Co. v. Louisiana,179 U. S. 89; Southwestern Oil Co. v. Texas,217 U. S. 114, and may burden more heavily kinds of business which it wishes to discourage. Williams v. Fears,179 U. S. 271; Armour Packing Co. v. Lacy,200 U. S. 226; Brown-Forman Co. v. Kentucky,217 U. S. 563; compare Alaska Fish Co. v. Smith,255 U. S. 44. To do that has been the practice also of the federal government. It protects, by customs duties, our manufacturers and producers from the competition of foreigners. Compare 276 U. S.
v. United States,276 U. S. 394, 276 U. S. 411-413; also, Billings v. United States,232 U. S. 261. It protects, by the oleomargarine laws, our farmers and dairymen from the competition of other Americans. Compare McCray v. United States,195 U. S. 27. It eliminated, by a prohibitive tax, the issue of state bank notes in competition with those of national banks. Compare 75 U. S. Fenno, 8 Wall. 533. Such is the constitutional power of Congress and of the state legislatures. The wisdom of its exercise is not the concern of this Court.
Whether chain stores owned by individuals may be subjected to the discrimination here challenged need not, however, be decided. This case requires decision only of the narrower question whether the state may freely apply discrimination in license fees against corporate chain stores. The essential difference between corporations and natural persons has been recognized by the federal government in taxing the income of businesses when conducted by corporations, while exempting a similar business when carried on by an individual or partnership. Flint v. Stone-Tracy Co.,220 U. S. 107sw, 220 U. S. 158. It has, at other times, imposed upon businesses conducted by corporations heavier taxes than upon those conducted by individuals. [Footnote 63] The equality clause of the Fourteenth Amendment presents no obstacle to a state likewise taxing businesses engaged in intrastate commerce differently according to the instruments by which they are carried on, provided the purpose of the discrimination is a permissible one, the discrimination employed a means appropriate to achieving the end sought, and the difference in the instruments so employed vital. Compare Fort Smith Lumber Co. v. Arkansas,251 U. S. 532; Quong Wing v. Kirkendall,223 U. S. 59; Amoskeag Savings Bank v. Purdy,231 U. S. 373; Singer Sewing Machine Co. v.
Brickell,233 U. S. 304. The corporate mechanism is obviously a vital element in the conduct of business. The encouragement or discouragement of competition is an end for which the power of taxation may be exerted. And discrimination in the rate of taxation is an effective means to that end.
The requirement of the equality clause that classification "must rest upon some ground of difference having a fair and substantial relation to the object of the legislation," Louisville Gas & Electric Co. v. Coleman,277 U. S. 32, 277 U. S. 37, is here satisfied. Mere difference in degree has been widely applied as a difference justifying different taxation or regulation. [Footnote 64] The difference in power between corporations and natural persons is ample basis for placing them in different, classes. Even as between natural persons, where the equality clause applies rigidly, differences in size furnish an adequate basis for discrimination in a tax rate. The size of estates, or of bequests, is the difference on which rest all the progressive inheritance taxes of the states and of the nation. Magoun v. Illinois Trust & Savings Bank,170 U. S. 283, 170 U. S. 293; Knowlton v. Moore,178 U. S. 41, 178 U. S. 109; Keeney v. New York,222 U. S. 525, 222 U. S. 536; Maxwell v. Bugbee,250 U. S. 525; Salomon v. state Tax Commission,278 U. S. 484. Difference in the size of incomes is the basis on which rest all progressive income taxes. Brushaber v. Union Pacific R. Co.,240 U. S. 1, 240 U. S. 25. Differences in the size of businesses present, likewise, an adequate basis for different rates of taxation. Compare Citizens' Telephone Co. v. Fuller,229 U. S. 322, 229 U. S. 331; Pacific American Fisheries v. Alaska,269 U. S. 269. And so do differences in the extent or field of operation.
The state might justify progressively higher license fees for corporations of larger size, or a more extended
field of operation, on the oft-asserted ground that such concerns are more efficient than smaller units, and hence that they can, and should, contribute more to the public revenues. But the state need not rest the difference in tax rates on a ground so debatable as the assertion that efficiency increases with size. [Footnote 65] The federal Constitution does not require that taxes (as distinguished from assessments for betterments) be proportionate to the differences in benefits received by the taxpayers, compare Illinois Central R. Co. v. Decatur,147 U. S. 190, 147 U. S. 197; Union Refrigerator Transit Co. v. Kentucky,199 U. S. 194, 199 U. S. 203; Southern Pacific Co. v. Kentucky,222 U. S. 63, 222 U. S. 76; St. Louis & Southwestern R. Co. v. Nattin,277 U. S. 157, 277 U. S. 159; or that taxes be proportionate to the taxpayer's ability to bear the burden.
Since business must yield to the paramount interests of the community in times of peace as well as in times of war, a state may prohibit a business found to be noxious and likewise may prohibit incidents or excrescences of a business otherwise beneficent. Mugler v. Kansas,123 U. S. 623; Ozan Lumber Co. v. Union County Bank,207 U. S. 251; Williams v. Arkansas,217 U. S. 79; Engel v. O'Malley,219 U. S. 128; Central Lumber Co. v. South Dakota,226 U. S. 157. Businesses may become as harmful to the community by excessive size as by monopoly or the commonly recognized restraints of trade. If the state should conclude that bigness in retail merchandising as manifested in corporate chain stores menaces the public welfare, it might prohibit the excessive size or extent of that business as it prohibits excessive size or weight in motor trucks or excessive height in the buildings of a city. Compare Morris v. Duby,274 U. S. 135; Welch v. Swasey,214 U. S. 91; Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co.,272 U. S. 365, 272 U. S. 388. It was said in United States v. United States Steel Corp.,251 U. S. 417, 251 U. S. 451, that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act did not forbid large aggregations, but the power of Congress to prohibit corporations of a size deemed excessive from engaging in interstate commerce was not questioned.
The elimination of chain stores, deemed harmful or menacing because of their bigness may be achieved by leveling the prohibition against the corporate mechanism -- the instrument by means of which excessive size is commonly made possible. Or, instead of absolutely prohibiting the corporate chain store, the state might conclude that it should first try the more temperate remedy of curbing the chain by imposing the handicap of discriminatory license fees. Compare St. Louis Poster Advertising Co. v. St. Louis,249 U. S. 269, 249 U. S. 274; Hammond Packing Co. v. Montana,233 U. S. 331, 233 U. S. 333-334; Bradley v. Richmond,227 U. S. 477, 227 U. S. 480. "Taxation is regulation, just as prohibition is." Compania General De Tabacos
Fifth. The mere fact that the taxpayer is a corporation does not, of course, exclude it from the protection afforded by the equality clause. Corporations and individuals, aliens and citizens, are for most purposes in the same class. Ordinarily, they have the same civil rights, are entitled to the same remedies, are subject to the same police regulations, and are also subject to the same tax laws. Where such is the case, the corporation taxpayer is entitled, like the individual, to the protection of the equality clause against discrimination, however effected. Compare Iowa-Des Moines National Bank v. Bennett,284 U. S. 239. But the chief aim of the Florida statute is apparently to handicap corporate chain stores -- that is, to place them at a disadvantage, to make their success less probable. No other justification of the discrimination in license fees need be shown, since the very purpose of the legislation is to create inequality, and thereby to discourage the establishment, or the maintenance, of corporate chain stores, since that purpose is one for which the power of taxation may be exerted, since higher license fees is an appropriate means of discouragement, and corporations have not the inherent right to engage in intrastate commerce. The clear distinction between the equality clause and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment should not be overlooked in this connection. The mandate of the due process clause is absolute. That clause is of universal application. It knows not classes. It applies alike to corporations and to individuals, to citizens and to aliens. Home Insurance Co. v. Dick,281 U. S. 397, 281 U. S. 411; Russian Volunteer Fleet v. United States,282 U. S. 481, 282 U. S. 489. The equality clause, on the other hand, is limited in its operation to members of a class.
It is true that the Florida Anti-Chain Store Law, like others, is not drawn so as to apply only to giant corporate chains. In terms, it applies to the small corporations as well as to the large, and also to natural persons. But the history of such legislation indicates that these laws were aimed at the huge publicly financed corporations, and that the statutes were couched in comprehensive terms in the hope of thereby avoiding constitutional doubts raised by judicial statements that the equality clause applies alike to natural persons and corporations. It was said in Quaker City Cab Co. Pennsylvania,277 U. S. 389, 277 U. S. 402, that the equality clause precludes making the character of the owner the sole fact on which a discrimination in taxation shall depend. And in Frost v. Corporation Commission,278 U. S. 515, 278 U. S. 522, it was said (citing the Quaker City Cab case; Kentucky Finance Corp. v. Paramount Auto Exchange,262 U. S. 544, 262 U. S. 550; Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Ellis,165 U. S. 150, 165 U. S. 154) "that a corporation is as much entitled to the equal protection of the laws as an individual." These statements require, in my opinion, this qualification. Whenever the discrimination is for a permitted purpose -- as when a state, having concluded that activity by corporations should be curbed, seeks to favor businesses conducted by individuals -- the corporate character of the owner presents a difference in ownership which may be made the sole basis of classification in taxation, as in regulation. [Footnote 66] The discrimination cannot, in such a case
be held arbitrary, since it is made in order to effect the permitted hostile purpose and is appropriate to that end. Compare Lawrence v. State Tax Commission,286 U. S. 276, 286 U. S. 283-285; New York ex rel. N.Y. & Albany Lighterage Co. v. Lynch, post, p. 590.
Sixth. The plaintiffs contend, for a further reason, that there is no taxable difference justifying the discrimination in license fees. They assert that the struggle between them and the independently owned stores is, in fact, not an unequal one, and, in support of this assertion, they call attention to those paragraphs in the bill which describe the cooperative chains of individual stores and their rapid growth. These paragraphs allege that, by
"affiliations and cooperative organizations, single grocery [and other] store owners have adopted the best features of chain store merchandising and have secured substantially all the benefits derived therefrom, while, at the same time, they have avoided burdens of capital investment, insurance, etc., incident to the carrying of a large stock in a central warehouse."
The bill sets forth how this has been achieved, describing in detail the recent advances in efficiency of such cooperative merchandising. It alleges, moreover, that the members of a cooperative chain have the superior advantage of the goodwill and personal interest of the individual owners, as compared with the hired managers of the regular chains, and that all these facts were known to the legislature when it enacted the statute here challenged.
These allegations are admitted by the motion to dismiss, and they are supported by recent experience of which we may take notice. [Footnote 67] But it does not follow that, because the independently owned stores are overcoming through cooperation the advantages once possessed by chain stores, there is no taxable difference between the corporate chain and the single store. The state's power to apply discriminatory taxation as a means of preventing domination of intrastate commerce by capitalistic corporations is not conditioned upon the existence of economic need. It flows from the broader right of Americans to preserve, and to establish from time to time, such institutions, social and economic, as seem to them desirable, and likewise to end those which they deem undesirable.
The state might, if conditions warranted, subject giant corporations to a control similar to that now exerted over public utility companies. [Footnote 68] Or the citizens of Florida might conceivably escape from the domination of giant corporations by having the state engage in business. Compare Jones v. City of Portland,245 U. S. 217; Green v. Frazier,253 U. S. 233; Standard Oil Co. v. Lincoln, 275 U.S. 504. But Americans seeking escape from corporate domination have open to them under the Constitution another form of social and economic control -- one more in keeping with our traditions and aspirations. They may prefer the way of cooperation, which leads directly to the freedom and the equality of opportunity which the Fourteenth Amendment aims to secure. [Footnote 69] That way is clearly open. For the fundamental difference between capitalistic enterprise and the cooperative -- between economic absolutism and industrial democracy -- is one which has been commonly accepted by legislatures and the courts as justifying discrimination in both regulation and taxation. [Footnote 70] Liberty Warehouse Co. v. Burley Tobacco Growers' Co-op. Marketing Assn.,276 U. S. 71. Compare Citizens' Telephone Co. v. Fuller,229 U. S. 322.
There is a widespread belief that the existing unemployment is the result, in large part, of the gross inequality in the distribution of wealth and income which giant corporations have fostered; that, by the control which the few have exerted through giant corporations, individual initiative and effort are being paralyzed, creative power impaired, and human happiness lessened; that the true prosperity of our past came not from big business, but through the courage, the energy, and the resourcefulness of small men; that only by releasing from corporate control the faculties of the unknown many, only by reopening to them the opportunities for leadership, can confidence in our future be restored and the existing misery be overcome, and that only through participation by the many in the responsibilities and determinations of business can Americans secure the moral and intellectual development which is essential to the maintenance of liberty. If the citizens of Florida share that belief, I know of nothing in the Federal Constitution which precludes the state from endeavoring to give it effect and prevent domination in intrastate commerce by subjecting corporate chains to discriminatory license fees. To that extent, the citizens of each state are still masters of their destiny.
In only nine states is statewide branch banking permitted: Arizona, California, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia. Of these, all except South Carolina and Maryland require the authorization of the appropriate state officer. See Federal Reserve Bulletin, April, 1930, pp. 258-266; id., July, 1932, pp. 455-458. Congress prohibited the establish of any branch national bank from 1863 to 1927; see First National Bank v. Missouri,263 U. S. 640, 263 U. S. 656-659. The law of that year authorized branches only within the same city, and only if the state laws so permitted. Act of February 25, 1927, 44 Stat. 1224, 1228, c.191, § 7. Compare Resolution of February 25, 1933, c. 126.
See Joseph S. Davis, Essays in the Earlier History of American Corporations, Vol. II, pp. 16-18, 308-309. New York permitted incorporation under a general law for some business purposes in 1811. By 1850, a general law permitting incorporation for a limited business purpose had become common, and, after 1875, extension of the privilege to every lawful business became so.
It was doubtless because of this that the earlier statutes limited the life of corporations to fixed terms of 20, 30, or 50 years. See the statutes cited in subsequent notes.
The power of Legislatures to grant special charters was sometimes strictly limited, even before the adoption of constitutional amendments withdrawing that power entirely. Thus, the New York Constitution, adopted in convention in November, 1821, and by popular vote in January, 1822, required the assent of two-thirds of each house for any act "creating, continuing, altering, or renewing any body politic or corporate"-- Art. 7, § 9; L. 1822-24, p. x. Similar provisions were included in the Delaware Constitution of 1831, Art. 2, § 17; in the Florida Constitution of 1838, Art. 13, § 2 (with an additional requirement of three months' public notice), and in the Michigan Constitution of 1835, Art. 12, § 2. The Rhode Island Constitution of 1842, Art. 4, § 17, required a bill for a corporate charter to be continued to the next legislature. The Constitution of Illinois, adopted in 1848, provided that no act authorizing the formation of a corporation with banking powers should be effective unless ratified by popular vote, Art. X, § 5, and a similar provision was included in the Constitution of Wisconsin 1848, Art. II, §§ 4, 5.
That the desire for equality and the dread of special privilege were largely responsible for the general incorporation laws is indicated by the fact that many states included in their constitutions a prohibition of the grant of special charters. The first constitutional provision requiring incorporation under general laws seems to be that in the New York Constitution of 1846, Art. 8, § 1 (except where objects of incorporation were not thus attainable). Other states followed in later years. Ala. 1867, Art. 13; Ark. 1874, Art. 12; Calif.1849, Art. 4, § 31; Colo. 1876, Art. 15, § 2; Del. 1897, Art. 9, § 1; Ga. 1868, Art. 3, § 6 (amended by Laws 1890-91, p. 55); Idaho 1889, Art. 11, § 2; Ill. 1848, Art. 10, § 1; Ind. 1851, Art. 11, § 13; Iowa 1846, Art. 8, § 2; Kan. 1855, Art. 13, § 1; La. 1864, Art. 121; Me. 1875, Art. 4, pt. 3, § 14 (except where objects could not thus be attained); Md. 1851, Art. 3, § 47 (except where objects could not thus be attained); Mich. 1850, Art. 15, § 1; Minn. 1857, Art. 10, § 2; Miss. 1890, Art. 7, § 178; Mo. 1865, Art. 8, § 4; Mont. 1889, Art. 15, § 2; Neb. 1866, Tit. Corporations, § 1; Nev. 1864, Art. 8, § 1; N.J. 1875, Art. 4, § 7; N.C. 1868, Art. 8, § 1 (except where objects could not thus be attained); N.D. 1889, Art. 7, § 131; Ohio 1851, Art. 13, § 1; Or. 1857, Art. 11, § 2; Pa. 1874, Art. 3, § 7; S.D. 1889, Art. 17, § 1; Tenn. 1870, Art. 11, § 8; Tex. 1876, Art. 12, § 1; Utah 1895, Art. 12, § 1; Va.1902, Art. 12, § 154; Wash. 1889, Art. 12, § 1; W.Va. 1872, Art. 11, § 1; Wis. 1848, Art. 11, § 1 (except where objects could not thus be attained).
Alabama -- until 1876, the limit was $200,000. Rev.Code 1867 (Walker), part 2, c. 3, § 1759; Act No. 282, March 3, 1870, § 3, L. 1869-70, p. 320. Under the Code of 1876 (Wood & Roquemore), § 1811, p. 509 (Act of February 28, 1876, § 9, L. 1875-76, p. 244), the limit was $1,000,000. Under the Code of 1896 (Civil, c. 28, § 1259, p. 429), it was $10,000,000. Arizona -- Comp.L. 1864-71, c. 51, § 19, p. 486 -- $5,000,000. Illinois -- $300,000, Act of June 22, 1852, L. p. 135; $1,000,000, Act of February 17, 1857, L. p. 110; $500,000, Act of February 18, 1857, L. p. 161. Maine -- $50,000, Act of March 19, 1862, c. 152, § 3; $200,000, Act of February 28, 1867, c. 125, § 7; February 26, 1870, c. 93, § 1; $500,000, Act of February 3, 1876, c. 65, § 2; $2,000,000, Act of February 14, 1883, c. 116, § 1; $10,000,000, Act of March 25, 1891, c. 99, § 1. The Act of March 21, 1901, c. 229, was the first to prescribe no limit. Wisconsin -- Until 1879, $250,000, R.S. 1878, c. 86, § 1772, p. 516; Act of February 7, 1879, c. 7, L. 1879, p. 10. Limits were imposed in some cases even by Delaware (March 21, 1871, c. 152, 14 Del L. 299) and New Jersey (March 30, 1865, c. 379, L. 1865, p. 707; March 31, 1869, c. 374. L. 1869, p. 1001). And see the notes following.
The Act of March 22, 1811, c. 67, limited the capital stock to $100,000. The purposes for which corporations might be formed under this law were limited to the following: manufacturing woolen, cotton or linen goods; making glass; making, from ore, bar-iron, anchors, mill-irons, steel, nail rods, hoop iron, ironmongery, sheet lead, shot, white lead and red lead. The Act of April 14, 1817, c. 223, extended the purposes to include the manufacture of morocco and other leather, but, for such objects, the capital stock was not to exceed $60,000. Further limitations were added from time to time, with the general limitation of $100,000, or a lower limitation, as, for example, $50,000 for corporations manufacturing salt. L. 1821, c. 231, § 19. The Act of 1852, c. 228, provided for the incorporation of companies for ocean navigation, and limited the authorized capital to $2,000,000; this was increased to $4,000,000 by Act of 1853, c. 124; to $8,000,000 by Act of 1866, c. 322; to $20,000,000 by Act of 1867, c. 419, and this was decreased to $4,000,000 by Act of 1875, c. 445. The Act of 1853, c. 117, provided for the incorporation of building companies, and set a maximum of $500,000; this was increased to $1,000,000 by Act of 1870, c. 773. The Act of 1854, c. 232, provided for the incorporation of companies to navigate lakes and rivers, and set a maximum of $1,000,000; this was increased to $2,000,000 by Act of 1865, c. 691. The Act of 1874, c. 143, provided for the incorporation of hotel companies, and set a maximum of $1,000,000.
The General Business Corporation Act of 1875, c. 611, § 11, set a maximum of $2,000,000. This was increased to $5,000,000 by Act of 1881, c. 295.
The first general act, May 15, 1851, c. 133, permitted incorporation for "any kind of manufacturing, mechanical, mining or quarrying business." It limited the maximum to $200,000. Act of March 19, 1855, c. 68, § 1, increased the maximum to $500,000. The act of May 9, 1870, c. 224 (Acts & Res. 1870, p. 154) repealed previous acts (§ 69) and made more comprehensive provisions; cutting, storing and selling ice, or carrying on any agricultural, horticultural, mechanical, mining, quarrying or manufacturing business, printing and publishing -- a maximum of $500,000 (§ 2); cooperation in any of the above businesses and cooperative trade -- $50,000 (§ 3); opening outlets, canals or ditches, propagation of herrings and alewives -- $5,000 (§ 4); making and selling gas for light in cities or towns -- $500,000 (§ 5); common carriage of goods -- $1,000,000 (§ 6). Later acts provided for the manufacture and distribution of gas for steam, heat, power, and cooking, and for the furnishing of hydrostatic and pneumatic pressure. A maximum of $500,000 was prescribed. Acts of April 9, 1879, c. 202; May 15, 1885, c. 240; April 11, 1891, c. 189; May 27, 1893, c. 397. The same limit was prescribed for corporations to erect and maintain hotels, public halls, and buildings for manufacturing purposes. Acts of April 24, 1872, c. 244; March 9, 1888, c. 116.
The maximum limit was raised to $1,000,000 for manufacturing and mechanical business by Act of March 22, 1871, c. 110, § 1, and for mining corporations by Act of May 3, 1875, c. 177, § 3, and to $100,000 for cooperative trade by Act of April 11, 1879, c. 210. By Act of April 14, 1873, c. 179, the general act was extended to the common carriage of persons -- except by railroad -- and the limit of $1,000,000 was retained. The Act of April 14, 1874, c. 165, authorized incorporation for "any lawful business" not specifically provided for, and limited the amount of stock to $1,000,000. The maximum limit for manufacturing and mechanical corporations was removed by Act of March 28, 1899, c.199. For all the other corporate purposes, the limitations above-named remained until the passage of the Business Corporation Law, June 17, 1903, c. 437. By that time, commissions with power to supervise the issues of public service corporations had long been established. Act of June 11, 1885, c. 314; Act of June 5, 1894, c. 450; Act of June 5, 1894 c. 452; Act of June 9, 1894, c. 462.
For all except mechanical and manufacturing corporations, the limitations set out in notes 8 and 9supra, remained until the passage of the Business Corporation Law, June 17, 1903, c. 437.
Act of April 22, 1905, No.190, amending Act of February 9, 1901, No. 1; 5 Purdon's Digest, 1905-1915 Supp. (13th ed.), p. 5340.
The first Act passed in 1849, L. 1849, No. 368, p. 563, contained no limit. But a limit of $500,000 was imposed by Act of July 18, 1863, No. 949, L. 1864, p. 1102.
The limit was raised to $1,000,000 for iron and steel corporations by Act of March 25, 1873, No. 4, L. 1873, p. 28, and it was extended to other corporations by Act of April 29, 1874, L. 1874, p. 73, which also increased the limit for the former to $5,000,000. The Act of April 18, 1873, No. 54, L. 1873, p. 76, had required that the Attorney General be satisfied of the reasonableness of so large a capitalization.
Pub.Stat. (1906), Tit. 25, c. 187, § 4311, p. 830.
Act of January 28, 1911, No. 143, L.1910, pp. 140, 141, 142. This provision was repealed by General Corporation Act, April 1, 1915, No. 141, L.1915, p. 222.
Bagby's Code (1911), Art. 23, § 245, p. 648, repealed by Act of April 10, 1918, c. 417, Laws 1918, p. 884.
Business Corporation Law, March 28, 1919, c. 92, Laws 1919, p. 113.
Pub.Stat. (1901), c. 147, § 6, p. 470.
Act of April 5, 1907, c. 129, Laws 1907, p. 131.
General Corporation Act, No. 84, April 26, 1921, Pub.Laws 1921, p. 125, contains no limit on the amount of stock. Corporate life is limited to 30 years, § 5(b).
Act No. 148, May 18, 1846, § 6, Laws 1846, pp. 265, 267 -- corporation for mining or manufacturing iron, copper, etc.
Act No. 232, June 18, 1903 (as amended by Pub.Laws 1907, No. 146) 4 Howell's Mich.Stat. (1914), § 9533, p. 3815. The $25,000,000 maximum was for mercantile and manufacturing corporations. It had previously been raised to $5,000,000 by Act No. 232, September 19, 1885, § 2, Pub.Laws 1885, p. 343. For mining corporations, a different maximum was fixed: $500,000 by Act No. 41, February 5, 1853, Laws 1853, p. 53; $2,500,000 by Act No. 113, May 11, 1877, § 4, Pub.Laws 1877, p. 87, and $10,000,000 by Act No. 233, September 17, 1903, Howell's Mich.Stat. (1914), § 7783, p. 3158, § 7804, p. 3165.
Act No. 254, May 10, 1917, § 2, Pub.Laws 1917, pp. 529, 530. See Dodge v. Ford Motor Co., 204 Mich. 459, 494, 170 N.W. 668.
Until 1921, corporations for various objects were formed under various acts. For mining corporations, a limit of $2,000,000 was prescribed. 2 Burns' Ann.Ind.Stat. (1914), § 5137; 2 id. (1926) § 5547. In 1921, a general act, applicable to corporations for any lawful business, was passed, without limitation on the amount of stock. Act of February 28, 1921, c. 35, Laws 1921, p. 93.
By Act of March 30, 1907, Laws 1907, p. 166, the maximum was increased to $50,000,000 from the $10,000,000 limit previously in force; Rev.St. 1899, c. 12, Art. 9, § 1320, p. 429; Rev.St.1919, c. 90, Art. 7, § 10152. The act was repealed and no maximum provided in Act of April 8, 1927, Laws 1927, p. 395; 1927 Supp. to Rev,Stat. § 10152.
1 Rev.Stat. (1925), Tit. 32, Art. 1302,
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