Erskine v. Van Arsdale - 82 U.S. 75 (1872)
U.S. Supreme Court
Erskine v. Van Arsdale, 82 U.S. 15 Wall. 75 75 (1872)
Erskine v. Van Arsdale
82 U.S. (15 Wall.) 75
1. Under the Act of March 2, 1867, thimble skeins and pipe boxes, made of iron, are exempt from duty, whether cast or wrought.
2. Taxes illegally assessed and paid may always be recovered back, if the collector understands from the payer that the taxes are regarded as illegal and that suit will be instituted to recover them.
3. Where an illegal tax has been collected, the citizen who has paid it and has been obliged to bring suit against the collector is entitled to interest, in the event of recovery, from the time of the alleged exaction.
In this suit, Van Arsdale sued Erskine, a collector of internal revenue, to recover back certain taxes paid by him after March 2, 1867, on thimble skeins and pipe boxes made of iron. Upon the trial -- there having been evidence tending to show that thimble skeins and pipe boxes are made from castings or, in other words, undergo a process of manufacture before they become these articles in a completed or finished state -- the court instructed the jury that
"by the Act approved March 2, 1867, thimble skeins and pipe boxes made of iron are exempted; these articles are exempt, whether cast or wrought, and that no tax could be legally assessed after the date of that act."
Passing to another part of the case, the court also instructed the jury, that
"if the collecting officer had notice at the time of payment from the taxed person that the tax was illegal, and that he would take measures to recover it back, the action may be maintained for all the taxes paid."
The court also instructed the jury, that if they found for the plaintiff they might add interest.
To these instructions exception was taken, and the question whether any of them were erroneous was now before this court by writ of error.