A statute of Virginia imposes an annual fee of $100 for each
vehicle used in the business of peddling goods, wares, or
merchandise "by selling and delivering the same at the same time to
licensed dealers or retailers at other than a definite place of
business operated by the seller." The statute exempts manufacturers
taxable by the State on capital, distributors of manufactured goods
paying a state license tax on their purchases, and wholesale
dealers regularly licensed by the State.
as applied to a foreign corporation which had its
principal office and place of business outside of the State and
whose delivers brought into the State bread which they there sold
and delivered to regular customers -- not in contravention of the
commerce clause or the equal protection clause of the Federal
Constitution. P. 313 U. S.
176 Va. 170, 10 S.E.2d 535, affirmed.
Appeal from the affirmance of a conviction for violation of a
state license tax statute.
MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The appellant, a corporation of West Virginia, has its principal
office and place of business in Martinsburg in that State. As a
foreign corporation registered in Virginia, it has paid the latter
State an annual registration fee and an income tax on its net
profits allocable to its
Page 313 U. S. 118
Virginia business. It makes bread which it sells to grocers and
other retailers in territory adjacent to Martinsburg, including
Winchester and other places in Virginia. Appellant's trucks carry
the bread into Virginia where they serve regular routes at regular
intervals. The drivers call only on regular customers, inquire of
each how much bread he needs and, in response to his order, take it
from the truck and deliver it to the customer. Thus, each such
transaction in Virginia is a sale and delivery in that State to a
The company has no property permanently located in Virginia, and
no place of business in the State except that, as required by the
statute respecting registered foreign corporations, it maintains an
office in the State where claims against it may be audited,
settled, and paid.
The appellant was convicted for making a sale in Virginia
without having procured a license pursuant to § 192b [Footnote 1
] of the Tax Code of Virginia, and
a fine was imposed. The Supreme Court of Appeals affirmed the
conviction. [Footnote 2
So far as material, the statute provides:
"There is hereby imposed an annual State license tax on every
person, firm, and corporation (other than . . . a manufacturer
taxable on capital by this State, or a distributor of manufactured
goods paying a State license tax on his purchases) who or which
shall peddle goods, wares, or merchandise by selling and delivering
the same at the same time to licensed dealers or retailers at other
than a definite place of business operated by the seller. Provided,
however, this act shall not be construed to apply to wholesale
dealers regularly licensed by this State, and who shall at the same
time sell and deliver merchandise
Page 313 U. S. 119
to retail merchants."
The annual fee is $100 for each vehicle used in the
It is admitted that appellant was not a manufacturer taxable on
its capital stock, nor a distributor of manufactured products
paying a state license tax on its purchases, nor a licensed
wholesale dealer, and did not, therefore, come within any of the
classes exempted by the Act.
In the State courts and here, the appellant challenged the
statute as contravening the commerce clause and the equal
protection clause of the Federal Constitution. Its position is that
it is doing either an interstate business, which the State may not
burden by imposing a license tax, or an intrastate business, as to
which the exaction works a forbidden discrimination. We hold both
1. While the transportation of bread across the State line is
interstate commerce, that is not the activity which is licensed or
taxed. The purely local business of peddling is what the Act hits,
and this irrespective of the source of the goods sold. It is
settled that such a statute imposes no burden upon interstate
commerce which the Constitution interdicts. [Footnote 3
] The appellant, however, urges that the
Act discriminates against interstate commerce by exempting from its
operation the privilege of sales by manufacturers paying tax on
their capital employed in manufacture in Virginia. It is said that,
if its bakery were situate in Virginia, the appellant would have
the benefit of this exemption, and, since it is not, the marketing
of appellant's goods shipped into the State is the target of a
hostile discrimination. But the argument overlooks the fact that
peddlers resident in Virginia who buy their goods within the State,
or buy or procure them
Page 313 U. S. 120
from extrastate sources, are alike subject to the Act. The
contention that the Act discriminates against interstate commerce
by virtue of the exemption in question is negatived by our
decisions. [Footnote 4
2. Examination of the Tax Code of Virginia discloses that the
Act in question is but one portion of a comprehensive scheme of
taxation. Manufacturers who sell their own products pay a tax on
capital which the State deems sufficient to cover all their
activities, including the vending of the goods. [Footnote 5
] Wholesale merchants who have a
fixed place of business pay a license tax measured by a percentage
of all their purchases, and if they are also licensed by the town
or city in which they have their place of business or, in lieu
thereof, are taxed by such town or city on the capital employed in
the business, they may sell and deliver at the same time and place
anywhere in the State without payment of any additional license
tax. [Footnote 6
distributing house, whether operated by a manufacturer or
wholesaler for distributing goods amongst the owner's retail
stores, must be licensed and pay the same tax as if it were a
wholesaler. [Footnote 7
merchants [Footnote 8
peddlers at retail [Footnote 9
must be licensed and pay license taxes -- the former a percentage
of the value of his purchases, and the latter a fixed annual fee.
Those who have no fixed place of business -- who peddle their wares
only to licensed dealers or retailers at the places of business of
the latter -- fall into none of the described classes. As the court
below points out, were it not for
Page 313 U. S. 121
§ 192b, such peddlers would be the only vendors in Virginia to
escape some form of taxation.
Peddlers at wholesale are not entitled to be licensed and taxed
on the same basis as other vendors, as respects either form or
amount. As we have repeatedly held, the equal protection clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment does not prevent a state from classifying
businesses for taxation, or impose any iron rule of equality.
occupations may be taxed though others are not. Some may be taxed
at one rate, others at a different rate. Classification is not
discrimination. It is enough that those in the same class are
treated with equality. That is true here.
Acts of Virginia, 1932, p. 376, 1938, p. 440; Va.Tax Code, 1936,
§ 192b, Michie, p. 2458, 1940 Supp. 472.
176 Va. 170, 10 S.E.2d 535.
Howe Machine Co. v. Gage, 100 U.
; Ement v. Missouri, 156 U.
; Wagner v. Covington, 251 U. S.
, 251 U. S. 104
Armour & Co. v. Virginia, 246 U. S.
, and cases therein cited.
Tax Code of Virginia, 1936, §§ 73, 188, Va.Code, 1936, Michie,
Appendix, pp. 2416, 2451.
Tax Code of Virginia, § 188, Va.Code, 1936, Michie, pp. 2451,
§ 192, Va.Code, 1936, Michie, p. 2457.
State Board of Tax Commissioners v. Jackson,
283 U. S. 527
283 U. S. 537
and cases cited.