Dunlap v. United States
Annotate this Case
173 U.S. 65 (1899)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Dunlap v. United States, 173 U.S. 65 (1899)
Dunlap v. United States
Argued November 29-30, 1898
Decided February 20, 1899
173 U.S. 65
The Act of August 28, 1894, c. 349, does not grant a right in praesenti to all persons who may, after the passage of the law, use alcohol in the arts, or in any medicinal or other like compounds, to a rebate or repayment of the tax paid on such alcohol, but the grant was conditioned on use, in compliance with regulations to be prescribed, in the absence of which regulations the right did not so vest as to create a cause of action by reason of the unregulated use.
Dunlap was, and had been for many years, "engaged in the manufacture of a product of the arts known and described as stiff hats,'" in Brooklyn, New York. Between August 28, 1894, and April 24, 1895, he used 7,060.95 proof gallons of domestic alcohol to dissolve the shellac required to stiffen hats made at his factory. An internal revenue tax of ninety cents per proof gallon had been paid upon 2,604.17 gallons before August 28, 1894, making $2,344.40, and a tax of $1.10 per proof gallon had been paid upon the remaining 4,456.78 gallons after August 28, 1894, making $4,900.81 -- or $7,245.21 in all. In October, 1894, Dunlap notified the collector of internal revenue of the First district of New York that he was using domestic alcohol at his factory, and that, under section 61 of the Act of August 28, 1894, 28 Stat. 509, 567, c. 349, he claimed a rebate of the internal revenue
tax paid on said alcohol, and he requested the collector to take such official action relative to inspection and surveillance as the law and regulations might require. Subsequently he tendered to the collector affidavits and other evidence tending to show that he had used the aforesaid quantity of alcohol in his business, together with stamps showing payment of tax thereon, and he requested the collector to visit the factory and satisfy himself, by an examination of the books or in any other manner, that the alcohol had been used as alleged. He also requested payment of the amount of tax appearing from the stamps to have been paid. The collector declined to entertain the application, and Dunlap filed a petition in the Court of Claims to recover the full amount of the tax which had been paid, as shown by the stamps, which, on December 6, 1897, was dismissed, whereupon he took this appeal.
The findings of fact set forth, among other things, that,
"in the early part of September, 1894, the Secretary of the Treasury requested the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to have regulations drafted for the use of alcohol in the arts, etc., and for the presentation of claims for rebate of the tax,"
and that "subsequently there was correspondence between these officers, as follows:"
From the Commissioner to the Secretary, October 3, 1894:
"I have the honor to report that the preparation of regulations governing the use of alcohol in the arts and manufactures, with rebate of the internal revenue tax, as provided by section 61 of the Revenue Act of August 28, 1894, has been and is now receiving very serious consideration from this office, and many communications have been received from, and personal interviews had with, manufacturers who use alcohol in their establishments, and it is found in every case, without exception, all agree that no regulation can be enforced without official supervision, and that without such supervision, the interests of manufacturers and of the government alike will suffer through the perpetration of frauds."
"As it is found to be impossible to prepare these regulations in a way that will prove satisfactory without official supervision, I have the honor to inquire whether there is any
appropriation or any general provision of law authorizing the expenditure of money by this department needed to procure such supervision."
From the Secretary to the Commissioner October 5, 1894:
"Yours of the 3d instant, inquiring whether there is any appropriation of general provision of law authorizing the expenditure of money by the Treasury Department or by the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue to provide supervision of manufacturers using alcohol in the arts, etc., under section 61 of the Act of August 28, 1894, is received, and in response I have the honor to state that no appropriation whatever, either special or general, has been made by Congress for the purpose mentioned, or for any other purpose connected with the execution of the section of the statute referred to."
From the Commissioner to the Secretary, October 5, 1894:
"I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 5th instant, in reply to my letter of the 3d instant, in which you state that no appropriation whatever, either special or general, has been made by Congress authorizing the expenditure of money by the Treasury Department of by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to provide supervision of manufacturers using alcohol in the arts, etc., under section 61 of the Act of August 28, 1894, or for any purpose connected with the execution of the section of the statute referred to."
"In reply, I would suggest that inasmuch as I have been unable, as stated in my letter of the 3d instant, after thorough consideration of the matter, and upon consultation by letter and by personal interview with a large number of the most prominent manufacturers, to prepare any set of regulations which would yield adequate protection to the government and the honest manufacturer, without official supervision, which has not been provided for by Congress, the preparation of these regulations be delayed until Congress has opportunity to supply this omission."
From the Secretary to the Commissioner, October 6, 1894:
"Your communication of yesterday, in reference to the execution of section 61 of the Act of August 28, 1894, and
advising me that, for the reasons therein stated, you are unable"
"to prepare any set of regulations which would yield adequate protection to the government and the honest manufacturer, without official supervision, which has not been provided for by Congress"
is received. I have also given much attention to the subject, and have fully considered all the arguments and suggestions submitted by parties interested in the execution of the section of the statute referred to, and have arrived at the conclusion that until further action is taken by Congress, it is not possible to establish and enforce such regulations as are absolutely necessary for an effective and beneficial execution of the law.
"You are therefore instructed to take no further action in the matter for the present."
In consequence of this last letter, a circular was issued by the Commissioner, November 24, 1894, stating:
"In view of the fact that this department has been unable to formulate effective regulations for carrying out the provisions of section 61 of the Act of August 28, 1894, relating to the rebate of tax on alcohol used in the 'arts, or in any medicinal or other like compounds,' collectors of internal revenue will, on receiving notice from manufacturers of the intended use of alcohol for the purposes named, advise such manufacturers that, in the absence of regulations on the subject, no official inspection of the alcohol so used or the articles manufactured therefrom can be made, and that no application for such rebate can be allowed or entertained."
Finding VIII was:
"On December 3, 1894, the Secretary of the Treasury transmitted to the Congress the annual report on the finances, containing the following statement:"
" Owing to defects in the legislation, the Treasury Department has been unable to execute the provisions of section sixty-one of the Act of August 28, 1894, permitting the use of alcohol in the arts, or in any medicinal or other like compound, without the payment of the internal tax. The act made no appropriation to defray the expenses of its administration, or for the repayment of taxes provided for, and, after
full consideration of the subject and an unsuccessful attempt to frame regulations which would, without official supervision, protect the government and the manufacturers, the department was constrained to abandon the effort and await the further action of Congress."
" It is estimated in the office of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that the drawbacks or repayments provided for in the act will amount to not less than $10,000,000 per annum, and that the expense of the necessary official supervision will not be less than $500,000 per annum. For the information of Congress, the correspondence between the Secretary and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue upon this subject will accompany this report."
"Appended to this report was a draft of regulations proposed for carrying out section 61, copies of communications from the Commissioner of Internal Revenue explaining the estimates of the appropriations required, and copies of the official correspondence between the Secretary and the Commissioner, given in the preceding finding, showing the action of the department. The proposed regulations were as follows."
"[These regulations, consisting of 33 articles, and including many subdivisions, were set forth at length.]"
The ninth finding was to the effect that the amounts appropriated in the Urgent Deficiency Act of January 25, 1895, 28 Stat. 636, c. 43, aggregating $245,095, were the amounts of the Secretary's estimate transmitted to Congress December 4, 1894, as necessitated by the income tax provisions of the Act of August 28, 1894.
The case is reported, 33 Ct.Cl. 135.