Illinois Central R. Co. v. Decatur,
147 U.S. 190 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Illinois Central R. Co. v. Decatur, 147 U.S. 190 (1893)

Illinois Central Railroad Company v. Decatur

No. 56

Argued November 22-23, 1892

Decided January 9, 1893

147 U.S. 190


The provisions in Section 22 of the act incorporating the Illinois Central Railroad Company, Private Laws, Ill. 1851, 61, 72, exempting it from taxation, do not exempt it from the payment of a municipal assessment upon its land within a municipality in the state, laid for the purpose of grading and paving a street therein.

An exemption from taxation is to be taken as an exemption from the burden of ordinary taxes, and does not relieve from the obligation to pay special assessments imposed to pay the cost of local improvements and charged upon contiguous property upon the theory that it is benefited thereby.

On February 10, 1851, an act was passed by the General Assembly of Illinois incorporating the Illinois Central Railroad Company. By it the company was made the beneficiary of the land grant from Congress to the state of September 20, 1850, 9 Stat. 466. The twenty-second section was in these words:

"SEC. 22. The lands selected under said act of Congress and hereby authorized to be conveyed shall be exempt from all taxation under the laws of this state until sold and conveyed by said corporation or trustees, and the other stock, property, and effects of said company shall be in like manner exempt from taxation for the term of six years from the passage of this act. After the expiration of said six years, the stock, property, and assets belonging to said company shall be listed by the president, secretary, or other proper officer with the auditor of state, and an annual tax for state purposes shall be assessed by the auditor upon all the property and assets, of every name, kind, and description, belonging to said corporation. Whenever the taxes levied for state purposes shall exceed three-fourths of one percentum per annum, such excess shall be deducted from the gross proceeds or income

Page 147 U. S. 191

herein required to be paid by said corporation to the state, and the said corporation is hereby exempted from all taxation of every kind except as herein provided for. The revenue arising from said taxation, and the said five percent of gross or total proceeds, receipts, or income aforesaid shall be paid into the state treasury in money, and applied to the payment of interest-paying state indebtedness until the extinction thereof, provided, in case the five percent provided to be paid into the state treasury and the state taxes to be paid by the corporation do not amount to seven percent of the gross or total proceeds, receipts, or income, then the said company shall pay into the state treasury the difference, so as to make the whole amount paid equal at least to seven percent of the gross receipts of said corporation."

By section 27, it was provided that

"this act shall be deemed a public act, and shall be favorably construed, for all purposes therein expressed and declared, in all courts and places whatsoever."

In 1887, proceedings were had in the County Court of Macon County to defray the cost of grading and paving a certain street in the City of Decatur. Under those proceedings, two separate parcels of land belonging to the Illinois Central Railroad Company, and forming part of its right of way, were assessed to the amount of $262.70. The company objected to this assessment on the ground that by its charter it was exempted from all taxation, of every kind, except as therein provided for, and that there was no provision permitting such an assessment. This objection was overruled, and a judgment entered by the county court against the two parcels of land. Exception was taken and an appeal allowed to the supreme court of the state. In that court the ruling of the county court was sustained, and the judgment affirmed, and, the case is now brought here for review by writ of error.

Page 147 U. S. 197

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