Revised Stat., § 3224, is not inapplicable to taxes imposed by
the Income Tax Law of 1913, but is clearly within the contemplation
of par. L of the Law, 38 Stat. 179.
The provisions of Rev.Stat., §§ 3220, 3226, 3227 are also
applicable to proceeding for recovery of taxes erroneously or
illegally assessed and collected under the Income Tax Law of
A suit may not be brought to enjoin the assessment or collection
of a tax because of the alleged unconstitutionality of the statute
The facts that many suits would have to be brought by persons to
recover taxes paid under an unconstitutional statute and that
meanwhile, under Rev.Stat., § 3187, taxes imposed become a lien and
constitute a cloud on the title of property held
inadequate to sustain jurisdiction of a suit in equity to restrain
the collection of taxes on the ground of unconstitutionality of the
statute imposing them.
There is no violation of due process of law under the Fifth
Amendment in the provisions of Rev.Stat., §§ 3220, 3226 and 3227,
Page 240 U. S. 119
appeal to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue after payment of
taxes and only having a right to sue after his refusal to
43 App.D.C. 144 affirmed.
The facts, which involve the jurisdiction of the district court
of suits brought to restrain the collection of taxes and the
construction and application of §§ 3220, 3224, 3226 and 3227,
Rev.Stat., are stated in the opinion.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE White delivered the opinion of the Court.
The appellants filed their bill in the Supreme Court of the
District of Columbia against the Commissioner of Internal Revenue
to enjoin the assessment and collection of the taxes imposed by the
income tax section of the Tariff Act of October 3, 1913, c. 16, 38
Stat. 166, 181, and especially the surtaxes therein provided for,
on the ground that the statute was void for repugnancy to the
Constitution of the United States. The case is here on appeal from
the judgment of the court below, affirming the action of the trial
court in sustaining a motion to dismiss the complaint for want of
jurisdiction because the complainants had an adequate remedy at
law, and because of the provision of Rev.Stat. § 3224 that "no suit
for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any
tax shall be maintained in any court."
We at once put out of view a contention that § 3224 is not
applicable to taxes imposed by the income tax law, since we are
clearly of the opinion that
Page 240 U. S. 120
it is within the contemplation of paragraph L (38 Stat. 179) of
the act, which provides:
"That all administrative, special, and general provisions of
law, including the laws in relation to the assessment, remission,
collection, and refund of internal revenue taxes not heretofore
specifically repealed and not inconsistent with the provisions of
this section are hereby extended and made applicable to all the
provisions of this section and to the tax herein imposed."
And, for the same reason, we do not further notice a contention
as to the inapplicability of §§ 3220, 3226, and 3227, to which
effect was given by the court below, requiring an appeal to the
Commissioner of Internal Revenue after payment of a tax claimed to
have been erroneously or illegally assessed and collected, and,
upon his refusal to return the sum paid, giving a right to sue for
The question for decision therefore is whether the sections of
the Revised Statutes referred to are controlling as to the case in
hand. The plain purpose and scope of the sections are thus stated
in Snyder v. Marks, 109 U. S. 189
109 U. S.
-194, a suit brought to enjoin the collection of a
revenue tax on tobacco:
"The inhibition of § 3224 applies to all assessments of taxes,
made under color of their offices, by internal revenue officers
charged with general jurisdiction of the subject of assessing taxes
against tobacco manufacturers. The remedy of a suit to recover back
the tax after it is paid is provided by statute, and a suit to
restrain its collection is forbidden. The remedy so given is
exclusive, and no other remedy can be substituted for it . . .
Cheatham v. United States, 92 U. S. 85
92 U. S. 88
, and again in
State Railroad Tax Cases, 92 U. S.
, 92 U. S. 613
, it was said by
this Court that the system prescribed by the United States in
regard to both customs duties and internal revenue taxes of
Page 240 U. S. 121
not judicial, to collect them, with appeals to specified
tribunals, and suits to recover back moneys illegally exacted, was
a system of corrective justice intended to be complete, and enacted
under the right belonging to the government to prescribe the
conditions on which it would subject itself to the judgment of the
courts in the collection of its revenues. In the exercise of that
right, it declares by § 3224 that its officers shall not be
enjoined from collecting a tax claimed to have been unjustly
assessed when those officers, in the course of general jurisdiction
over the subject matter in question, have made the assignment
[assessment] and claim that it is valid."
And this doctrine has been repeatedly applied until it is no
longer open to question that a suit may not be brought to enjoin
the assessment or collection of a tax because of the alleged
unconstitutionality of the statute imposing it. Shelton v.
Platt, 139 U. S. 591
Pittsburgh &c. Ry. v. Board of Public Works,,
172 U. S. 32
Pacific Steam Whaling Co. v. United States, 187 U.
, 187 U. S.
But it is contended that this doctrine has no application to a
case where, wholly independent of any claim of the
unconstitutionality of the tax sought to be enjoined, additional
equities sufficient to sustain jurisdiction are alleged, and this,
it is asserted, being such a case, falls within the exception to
the general rule. But, conceding for argument's sake only the legal
premise upon which the contention rests, we think the conclusion
that this case falls within such exception is wholly without merit,
since, after an examination of the complaint, we are of the opinion
that no ground for equitable jurisdiction is alleged. It is true
the complaint contains averments that, unless the taxes are
enjoined many suits by other persons will be brought for the
recovery of the taxes paid by them, and also that, by reason of §
3187, Rev.Stat., making the tax a lien on plaintiffs' property, the
assessment of the taxes would constitute a cloud on plaintiffs'
Page 240 U. S. 122
title. But these allegations are wholly inadequate under the
hypothesis which we have assumed solely for the sake of the
argument, to sustain jurisdiction, since it is apparent on their
face they allege no ground for equitable relief independent of the
mere complaint that the tax is illegal and unconstitutional and
should not be enforced -- allegations which, if recognized as a
basis for equitable jurisdiction, would take every case where a tax
was assailed because of its unconstitutionality out of the
provisions of the statute, and thus render it nugatory, while it is
obvious that the statute plainly forbids the enjoining of a tax
unless, by some extraordinary and entirely exceptional
circumstance, its provisions are not applicable.
There is a contention that the provisions requiring an appeal to
the Commissioner of Internal Revenue after payment of the taxes,
and giving a right to sue in case of his refusal to refund, are
wanting in due process, and therefore there is jurisdiction. But we
think it suffices to state that contention to demonstrate its
entire want of merit.
MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS took no part in the consideration and
decision of this case.