Alaska Fish Salting & By-Products Co. v. Smith,
255 U.S. 44 (1921)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Alaska Fish Salting & By-Products Co. v. Smith, 255 U.S. 44 (1921)

Alaska Fish Salting & By-Products Company v. Smith

No. 1

Argued January 20, 21, 1921

Decided January 31, 1921

255 U.S. 44


1. In imposing license taxes upon the manufacture of oil and fertilizer from fish, the legislature of Alaska, having in view the value of herring as a food supply for men and for salmon, constitutionally may discriminate against those persons who consume herring in the manufacture, as compared with those who use other fish or salmon offal. P. 255 U. S. 48.

2. A license tax, otherwise valid, is not unconstitutional because it destroys a business without compensation. Id.

3. Held that the purpose of the legislature in enacting the tax laws involved in this case must be gathered from the statutes, and not from the allegation in the bill attacking them, admitted by demurrer. P. 255 U. S. 49.

4. The Act of August 24, 1912, c. 387, 3, 37 Stat. 512, creating the Alaskan Legislative Assembly and granting it power to alter, amend, modify and repeal laws in force in Alaska, declared that such power should not extend to the "fish laws" of the United States there applicable, or to laws of the United States providing for taxes on business or trade, and further declared that "this provision shall not operate to prevent the legislature from imposing other and additional taxes or licenses."


(a) That certain acts of Congress imposing taxes on fish oil and fertilizer works based on output (Alaska Comp.Laws, §§ 2569, 259) are not "fish laws" within the meaning of this limitation. P. 255 U. S. 49.

(b) That subjection of a particular industry to this congressional tax does not imply a license to continue in business, and thus prevent additional, even prohibitory, taxation by Alaska under the broad power granted. Id.

(c) That an additional tax by Alaska, being thus authorized, is not objectionable as double taxation. P. 255 U. S. 50.

5. A discriminatory license tax, ut sup. par. 1, held consistent with the command of § 9 of the said Act of August 24, 1912, that all taxes shall be uniform on the same class of subjects. P. 255 U. S. 49.

6. The provision of the same act, § 9, that no tax shall be levied for

Page 255 U. S. 45

territorial purpose in excess of one percent of the assessed valuation of property, does not apply to license taxes. P. 255 U. S. 50.


The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 255 U. S. 47

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