Askren v. Continental Oil Co.,
252 U.S. 444 (1920)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Askren v. Continental Oil Co., 252 U.S. 444 (1920)

Askren v. Continental Oil Co.,

Nos. 521-523

Argued January 5, 6, 1920

Decided April 19, 1920

252 U.S. 444


A law of New Mexico defining " distributors " of gasoline as those who sell it from tank cars, receiving tanks, or stations, or in or from tanks, barrels, or packages not purchased from a licensed distributor, and "retail dealers" as those other than distributors who sell it in quantities of 50 gallons or less, lays an annual license tax of $50.00

Page 252 U. S. 445

on each distributor for each distributing station, place of business, or agency, and of $5.00 on each retailer for every place of business or agency -- besides imposing an excise of 2� per gallon on all gasoline sold or used, to be paid and made return of by distributors and dealers; it provides inspectors to see to its enforcement, and devotes the resulting revenue first to pay their salaries and expenses, and then to a highway fund. Held that it is not an inspection act merely, but a privilege tax, and, as applied to parties who bring gasoline from without and sell it within the state, the act is void -- a burden on interstate commerce -- insofar as it relates to their business of selling in tank car lots and in barrels and packages, as originally imported from other states, but, if separable, it is valid in its application to sales made from such original packages in retail quantities to suit purchasers. P. 252 U. S. 447.

An excise on purely local dealing in a commodity cannot be treated as a discrimination against other states merely because the commodity is not produced in the state imposing the tax, but comes wholly from other states. P. 252 U. S. 449.

The question whether an act assuming to tax a business in its interstate and intrastate aspects is separable as to the latter reserved for final hearing where the relative importance of the two classes of business as conducted by plaintiffs could not be ascertained from the case as made on application for temporary injunction. P. 252 U. S. 450.


The case is stated in the opinion.

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