Ohio levied an ad valorem
personal property tax on all
the boats and barges owned by appellant, an Ohio corporation, and
employed in transporting oil along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
The main terminals are in Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, and
Louisiana. The vessels are registered in Cincinnati, but they
neither pick up nor discharge oil in Ohio, they stop in Ohio only
for occasional fuel or repairs, they traverse a maximum of only 17
1/2 miles of waters bordering Ohio, and they were almost
continuously outside Ohio during the taxable year.
since the vessels would be subject to taxation on
an apportionment basis in several other states, the Ohio tax on
their full value violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Pp. 342 U. S.
155 Ohio St. 61, 98 N.E.2d
The Supreme Court of Ohio sustained an ad valorem
on the entire value of appellant's boats and barges employed in
interstate commerce. 155 Ohio St. 61, 98 N.E.2d
. On appeal to this Court, reversed,
p. 342 U. S.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Appellant, an Ohio corporation, owns boats and barges which it
employs for the transportation of oil along the
Page 342 U. S. 383
Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. The vessels neither pick up oil nor
discharge it in Ohio. The main terminals are in Tennessee, Indiana,
Kentucky, and Louisiana. The maximum river mileage traversed by the
boats and barges on any trip though waters bordering Ohio was 17
1/2 miles. These 17 1/2 miles were in the section of the Ohio River
which had to be traversed to reach Bromley, Kentucky. While this
stretch of water bordered Ohio, it was not necessarily within Ohio.
The vessels were registered in Cincinnati, Ohio, but only stopped
in Ohio for occasional fuel or repairs. These stops were made at
Cincinnati, but none of them involved loading or unloading
The Tax Commissioner of Ohio, acting under §§ 5325 and 5328 of
the Ohio General Code, levied an ad valorem
property tax on all of these vessels. The Board of Tax Appeals
affirmed (with an exception not material here), and the Supreme
Court of Ohio sustained the Board, 155 Ohio St. 61, 98 N.E.2d
, over the objection that the tax violated the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case is here on appeal. 28
U.S.C. § 1257(2).
Under the earlier view governing the taxability of vessels
moving in the inland waters, City of St. Louis v. Wiggins
11 Wall. 423; Ayer & Lord Tie
Co. v. Kentucky, 202 U. S. 409
cf. Old Dominion S.S. Co. v. Virginia, 198 U.
, Ohio, the state of the domicile, would have a
strong claim to the whole of the tax that has been levied. But the
rationale of those cases was rejected in Ott v. Mississippi
Barge Line Co., 336 U. S. 169
where we held that vessels moving in interstate operations along
the inland waters were taxable by the same standards as those which
Pullman's Palace Car Co. v. Pennsylvania, 141 U. S.
, first applied to railroad cars in interstate
commerce. The formula approved was one which fairly apportioned the
tax to the commerce carried on within the state. In that way,
Page 342 U. S. 384
placed inland water transportation on the same constitutional
footing as other interstate enterprises.
case involved a tax by Louisiana on vessels of
a foreign corporation operating in Louisiana waters. Louisiana
sought to tax only that portion of the value of the vessels
represented by the ratio between the total number of miles in
Louisiana and the total number of miles in the entire operation.
The present case is sought to be distinguished on the ground that
Ohio is the domiciliary state, and therefore may tax the whole
value even though the boats and barges operate outside Ohio.
New York Central & H.R. R. Co. v. Miller, 202 U.
, sustained a tax by the domiciliary state on all
the rolling stock of a railroad. But, in that case, it did not
appear that "any specific cars or any average of cars" was so
continuously in another state as to be taxable there. 202 U.S. at
202 U. S. 597
Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Minnesota, 322 U.
, allowed the domiciliary state to tax the entire
fleet of airplanes operating interstate, but, in that case, as in
case, it was not shown that "a defined part of
the domiciliary corpus" had acquired a taxable situs elsewhere. 322
U.S. at 322 U. S. 295
Those cases, though exceptional on their facts, illustrate the
reach of the taxing power of the state of the domicile, as
contrasted to that of the other states. But they have no
application here, since most, if not all, of the barges and boats
which Ohio has taxed were almost continuously outside Ohio during
the taxable year. No one vessel may have been continuously in
another state during the taxable year. But we do know that most, if
not all, of them were operating in other waters, and therefore,
under Ott v. Mississippi Barge Line Co., supra,
taxed by the several states on an apportionment basis. The rule
which permits taxation by two or more states on an apportionment
basis precludes taxation of all of the property by the state of the
domicile. See Union Refrigerator
Page 342 U. S. 385
Co v. Kentucky, 199 U. S. 194
Otherwise, there would be multiple taxation of interstate
operations, and the tax would have no relation to the
opportunities, benefits, or protection which the taxing state gives
MR. JUSTICE BLACK dissents.
MR. JUSTICE MINTON, dissenting.
I assume for the purposes of this dissent that none of the
vessels in question was within Ohio during the tax year, and that
they were taxed to their full value by Ohio. The record shows that
the vessels were all registered in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the home
port, and that Ohio is the domicile of the owner. Ohio claims the
right to tax these vessels because they have not acquired a tax
situs elsewhere than their home port and domicile.
Seagoing vessels have always been taxable at the domicile of the
owner. Southern Pacific Co. v. Kentucky, 222 U. S.
; Morgan v.
16 Wall. 471; Hays v.
Pacific Mail S.S. Co.,
17 How. 596. This same rule
has been applied to vessels engaged in commerce between the
different states. Transportation Co. v. Wheeling,
99 U. S. 273
City of St. Louis v. Wiggins
11 Wall. 423. The only exception to the
rule until today was that, where vessels had acquired a situs for
taxation in some other state, that other state might tax them.
Old Dominion S.S. Co. v. Virginia, 198 U.
. In Ayer & Lord Tie Co. v. Kentucky,
202 U. S. 409
202 U. S. 421
this Court said:
"The general rule has long been settled as to vessels plying
between the ports of different states, engaged in the coastwise
trade, that the domicil of the owner is the situs of a vessel for
the purpose of taxation, wholly irrespective of the place of
enrollment, subject, however, to the exception that, where a
Page 342 U. S. 386
engaged in interstate commerce has acquired an actual situs in a
state other than the place of the domicil of the owner, it may
there be taxed because within the jurisdiction of the taxing
In the case at hand, the vessels had not acquired a situs for
taxation in any other state. They were at large in the Ohio and
Mississippi Rivers, touching ports therein from time to time. There
was no showing as to how much time any of the vessels spent in any
state. Indeed, the time spent in any state by the vessels plying
the Mississippi River could not be shown with any accuracy, as the
states on each side own to the middle of the stream. *
channel might be on either side of the center line or right on the
center line. Who is to say what state the vessels were in?
The doctrine of apportionment applied in Ott v. Mississippi
Valley Barge Line Co., 336 U. S. 169
not in point. In that case, the domiciliary state had not sought to
tax the vessels. The tax was approved in the Ott
on the assurance of the Louisiana Attorney General that the taxing
"was intended to cover and actually covers here, an average
portion of property permanently within the State -- and by
permanently is meant throughout the taxing year."
at 336 U. S. 175
Without such assurance, there would have been no basis for applying
the apportionment rule. New York Central & H.R. R. Co. v.
Miller, 202 U. S. 584
Pullman's Palace Car Co. v. Pennsylvania, 141 U. S.
, 141 U. S. 26
Union Refrigerator Transit Co. v. Kentucky, 199 U.
, 199 U. S.
The record in this case is silent as to whether any proportion
of the vessels were in any one state for the whole
Page 342 U. S. 387
of a taxable year. The record does show that no other state
collected taxes on the vessels for the years in question or any
other year. Until this case, it has not been the law that the state
of the owner's domicile is prohibited from taxing under such
Southern Pacific Co. v. Kentucky, supra,
is a case in
point. There, the owner of the vessels was a Kentucky corporation
which operated between various coastal ports. None of the vessels
was ever near Kentucky, but Kentucky was allowed to tax them
because it was the state of the owner's domicile. The vessels were
in and out of other states' ports, just as the instant vessels were
in and out of other states' ports, but the mere possibility that
some other state might attempt to levy an apportioned tax on the
vessels was not permitted to destroy Kentucky's power to tax. The
crucial fact was that the vessels were not shown to have acquired a
tax situs elsewhere.
As recently as 1944, this Court would seem to have added
vitality to the doctrine which should govern this case. Minnesota
had taxed an airline on the full value of its airplanes, including
those used in interstate commerce. MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER,
announcing the judgment of the Court upholding the tax, stated:
"The fact that Northwest paid personal property taxes for the
year 1939 upon 'some proportion of its full value' of its airplane
fleet in some other States does not abridge the power of taxation
of Minnesota as the home the fleet in the circumstances of the
present case. The taxability of any part of this fleet by any other
State than Minnesota, in view of the taxability of the entire fleet
by that State, is not now before us. It . . . is not shown here
that a defined part of the domiciliary corpus has acquired a
permanent location, i.e.,
a taxing situs, elsewhere."
Northwest Airlines v. Minnesota, 322 U.
, 322 U. S.
Page 342 U. S. 388
The fear of "double taxation" was much more real in that case
than in the instant case; yet the Minnesota tax was sustained
because there was no showing that a taxing situs had
acquired elsewhere. The question of what some other state might do
so is no more before the Court in this case than it was in the
The majority today seeks to distinguish the earlier cases by
magnifying the relevance of the continuous absence of the vessels
from the domiciliary state. But the operative fact of the earlier
cases was the absence or presence of another taxing situs. Where no
other taxing situs was shown to exist, the state of the domicile
was permitted to tax, irrespective of the amount of time the
vessels were present in that state. Southern Pacific Co. v.
As it is admittedly not shown on this record that these vessels
have acquired a tax situs elsewhere, Ohio should be permitted to
tax them as the state of the owner's domicile. I would affirm.
* Douglas, Boundaries, Areas, Geographic Centers, and Altitudes
of the United States and the Several States, 2d Ed. (U.S. Dept. of
Interior, Geological Survey Bull. 817).