Walters v. City of St. Louis - 347 U.S. 231 (1954)
U.S. Supreme Court
Walters v. City of St. Louis, 347 U.S. 231 (1954)
Walters v. City of St. Louis
Argued February 2-3, 1954
Decided March 15, 1954
347 U.S. 231
Pursuant to a state statute, a city promulgated an ordinance levying an income tax on the gross salaries and wages of employed persons, but only on the net profits of self-employed persons, of corporations, and of business enterprises after deducting the necessary expenses of operation. A few days after the effective date of the ordinance, and before its actual application could be ascertained, certain wage earners sued in a state court for a declaratory judgment that the tax was void and for an injunction to prevent their employer from withholding the tax and the city from collecting it. There was no issue as to extraterritorial application of the tax or as to any burden on interstate commerce.
Held: on its face, neither the statute nor the ordinance violates the Due Process Clause or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 347 U. S. 232-238.
(a) Since the State Supreme Court did not pass on the interpretation or validity of the administrative regulations issued under the ordinance, this Court will not do so. P. 347 U. S. 233.
(b) In view of widespread taxing practices, it cannot be said that the difference between income from salaries and wages and income from profits of business is insignificant or fanciful, and a difference in treatment of taxpayers based on such a classification of sources of income is not per se a prohibited discrimination. Quaker City Cab Co. v. Pennsylvania, 277 U. S. 389, distinguished. Pp. 347 U. S. 236-237.
(c) Equal protection only requires that classification rest on real, and not feigned, differences, that the distinction have some relevance to the purpose for which the classification is made, and that the different treatments be not so disparate, relative to the difference in classification, as to be wholly arbitrary. Pp. 347 U. S. 237-238.
364 Mo. ___, 259 S.W.2d 377, affirmed.