International Paper Co. v. Massachusetts,
246 U.S. 135 (1918)

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U.S. Supreme Court

International Paper Co. v. Massachusetts, 246 U.S. 135 (1918)

International Paper Company v. Massachusetts

No. 733

Argued October 19, 1917

Decided March 4, 1918

246 U.S. 135


The principles laid down in Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Kansas, 216 U. S. 1, and other cases limiting the power of a state in respect of license fees or excise taxes imposed on foreign (sister state) corporations doing interstate as well as local business are restated and reaffirmed.

A license fee or excise of a given percent of the par value of the entire authorized capital stock of a foreign corporation doing both local and interstate business and owning property in several states, tested, as it must be, by its essential and practical operation, rather than by its form or local characterization, is a tax on the entire business and property of the corporation, and is unconstitutional and void both as an illegal burdening of intestate commerce and as a deprivation of property without due process of law.

The immunity of interstate commerce from state taxation is universal, and covers every class of such commerce, including that conducted by merchants and trading companies no less than what is done by common carriers.

As respects the power of a state to tax property beyond its jurisdiction belonging to a foreign corporation, it is of no moment whether the corporation be a carrier or a trading company, for a state is wholly without power to impose such a tax.

Massachusetts Stats., 1914, c. 724, § 1, as construed by the Supreme Judicial Court, removed the maximum limit fixed by Stats., 1909, c. 490, Pt. III, § 56, so that the two conjointly exact a single tax based on the par value of the entire authorized capital stock of the foreign corporation of 1/50 of 1% of the first $10,000,000, and 1/100 of 1% of the excess. Held that, so changed, the law in its essential and practical operation is like those held invalid in Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Kansas, supra, and other cases cited, including Looney v. Crane Co., 245 U. S. 178, and that a tax exacted under it for the privilege of doing local business, from a foreign corporation largely engaged in interstate commerce, and

Page 246 U. S. 136

whose property and business were largely in other states, was void. Baltic Mining Co. v. Massachusetts, 231 U. S. 68, distinguished.

228 Mass. 101 reversed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 246 U. S. 138

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