Respondent is an Illinois corporation with its place of business
in Chicago. It owns a fleet of trucks which it uses to transport
goods for hire within Chicago, as well as between Chicago and
points in neighboring States. Every day, each truck carries some
goods which never leave the City and some destined for neighboring
as applied to respondent, an ordinance of the
City of Chicago levying an annual license tax ranging, according to
capacity, from $8.25 to $16.50 on each truck operated for hire
"within the city," is not inconsistent with the Commerce Clause
when not shown to be, in fact, a burden on interstate commerce. Pp.
344 U. S.
409 Ill. 480, 101 N.E.2d 205, reversed.
The Supreme Court of Illinois held an ordinance of the City of
Chicago levying an annual license tax on trucks operated for hire
within the City unconstitutional as applied to respondent's trucks.
409 Ill. 480, 101 N.E.2d 205. This Court granted certiorari. 343
U.S. 940. Reversed and remanded,
p. 344 U. S.
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.
Once more, we are called upon to pass on the validity of a tax
which falls in some measure upon commerce "among the several
States." In the situation before us,
Page 344 U. S. 575
it is not a tax imposed on interstate commerce as such. It is a
tax intended to fall on business done "within the city" that levies
it, although, in part, it is imposed on carriers of intrastate and
interstate commerce inseparably commingled. The tax is on trucks
and is levied by an ordinance of the City of Chicago, of which the
relevant portions are set out in the margin. [Footnote 1
] It is graduated according to size,
ranging from $8.25 on a truck of no more than two-ton capacity to
$16.50 on a truck of more than four-ton capacity. Penalties are
provided for failure to pay the tax.
Respondent is an Illinois corporation, and has its place of
business in Chicago. It owns a fleet of trucks which it employs to
transport goods within Chicago, between Chicago and other points in
Illinois, and between Chicago, and other points in Illinois, and
points in Indiana
Page 344 U. S. 576
and Wisconsin. It is stipulated that each of respondent's
"during every single day of the year, carries on it along with
property which never leaves the city . . . property destined for
some point outside the Illinois."
Upon respondent's failure to pay the tax, the present
proceedings were instituted by the City of Chicago in its Municipal
Court. The verdict having gone against the City, the Supreme Court
of Illinois, on appeal, affirmed the judgment of acquittal, holding
that respondent was "not subject to the license tax" because it
"cannot separate its loads, nor can it discontinue any part of the
service." The City of Chicago v. Willett
Co., 406 Ill.
Being left in doubt by the Illinois court's opinion whether it
had held that the ordinance could not, because of the Commerce
Clause, be validly applied to the respondent's situation or had
construed the ordinance so as not to cover a situation like
respondent's, we granted certiorari and remanded for clarification.
341 U.S. 913. A restatement of its holding left us in no doubt that
the Supreme Court of Illinois did not rest its affirmance on a
restrictive construction of the ordinance, excluding respondent
from its scope, but found that, as applied to respondent, the
ordinance runs afoul of the Commerce Clause. City of Chicago v.
409 Ill. 480, 101 N.E.2d 205. We granted
certiorari to review this judgment because it raises questions of
importance to the Nation's major transportation centers. 343 U.S.
"It being once admitted, as, of course, it must be, that not
every law that affects commerce among the states is a regulation of
it in a constitutional sense, nice distinctions are to be
Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio R. Co. v.
Texas, 210 U. S. 217
210 U. S. 225
This case does not raise the difficulties so often encountered
Page 344 U. S. 577
when determination of the validity of State action affecting
interstate commerce requires an accommodation between a State's
undoubted power over its own internal commerce and the national
interest in the unrestricted flow of interstate commerce. This tax,
as it falls on respondent, an Illinois corporation having its place
of business in Chicago, is clearly unassailable under the authority
of New York Central R. Co. v. Miller, 202 U.
, which we reaffirmed in Northwest Airlines,
Inc. v. Minnesota, 322 U. S. 292
However, "nice distinctions" have been argued to us, and they
should be considered.
It is said, on the one hand, that Osborne v. Florida,
164 U. S. 650
Pullman Co. v. Adams, 189 U. S. 420
Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Tax Commission,
297 U. S. 403
decide this case, and, on the other, that it is controlled by cases
such as Adams Express Co. v. New York, 232 U. S.
; Bowman v. Continental Oil Co., 256 U.
; Sprout v. South Bend, 277 U.
, and Cooney v. Mountain States Telephone
Co., 294 U. S. 384
was true in Pacific Telephone Co. v. Tax Commission,
the taxpayer's principal argument in this case has been
that the tax is necessarily void because the taxpayer is not free
to withdraw from the local business, which alone the statute
purports to tax, without discontinuing its interstate business as
well. Respondent relies heavily on Sprout v. South Bend,
But Mr. Justice Brandeis, who wrote for the Court in
pointed out in the Pacific Telephone
that, in Sprout,
the taxpayer could not avoid the tax by
restricting himself to interstate business only and withdrawing
from local business, because the tax, by its terms, fell on
exclusively interstate, as well as intrastate, business conducted
from the City of South Bend. 297 U.S. at 297 U. S.
-417. That was the controlling fact in
which was absent in the Pacific
Page 344 U. S. 578
case, and is absent in this case also, since the Illinois
Supreme Court has told us that the Chicago ordinance is not to be
read as imposing a tax on trucks which do not carry goods within
the City. City of Chicago v. Willett Co., supra,
at 289-290, 94 N.E.2d
. Thus, as regards the main point pressed by respondent, the
Chicago tax avoids the infirmity laid bare by the Sprout
case, and meets the facts of Osborne v. Florida, supra,
and Pullman Co. v. Adams, supra,
as did the Pacific
case. Again, as in Pacific Telephone,
taxpayer here makes no showing that the tax, though directed at
intrastate business only, in fact burdens interstate commerce. This
is for the taxpayer to show affirmatively, and respondent has made
no attempt to do so.
But, if it were necessary to decide upon the basis of the "nice
distinctions" urged upon us, we could not rest without more on the
authority of Pacific Telephone.
For the tax in that case
was measured by a percentage of the gross income drawn solely from
intrastate business. Although the taxpayer's intrastate and
interstate activities were inseparable, the tax was not laid
inseparably on both. 297 U.S. at 297 U. S. 414
That is not true in this case. Here, the tax falls inseparably on
what have been called instrumentalities of interstate commerce,
which are at once also those of intrastate commerce. Whatever
intrinsic significance this difference may have in other
situations, it becomes irrelevant in a case controlled, as is this
one, by the governing principles of New York Central R. Co. v.
Page 344 U. S. 579
In the Miller
case, the taxpayer, a railroad company,
"a New York corporation, owning or hiring lines without as well
as within the state . . . and sending its cars to points without as
well as within the state, and over other lines as well as its
202 U.S. at 202 U. S. 593
The cars were often not in the company's possession for some time.
The New York levied a tax computed on the basis of the amount of
the capital stock employed within the State. The Court held that
the railroad's property could constitutionally be subjected to this
tax by New York, as that State was its permanent situs,
"notwithstanding its occasional excursions to foreign parts." 202
U.S. at 202 U. S. 597
see Northwest Airlines v. Minnesota, supra,
322 U.S. at
322 U. S. 299
note 4. In the Northwest Airlines
case, the taxpayer, a
Minnesota corporation, used St. Paul as the home port for all its
planes. The rebuilding and overhauling of planes was done in St.
Paul. Minnesota assessed a tax against the airline on the basis of
the entire fleet coming into the State. We held, on the authority
of the Miller
"[t]he benefits given to Northwest by Minnesota and for which
Minnesota taxes -- its corporate facilities and the governmental
resources which Northwest enjoys in the conduct of its business in
Minnesota -- are concretely symbolized by the fact that Northwest's
principal place of business is in St. Paul. . . . The relation
Page 344 U. S. 580
Northwest and Minnesota -- a relation existing between no other
State and Northwest -- and the benefits which this relation affords
are the constitutional foundation for the taxing power which
Minnesota has asserted."
322 U.S. at 322 U. S. 294
And the two concurring opinions in the Northwest Airlines
case harmonize with the result we reach here. Indeed, the "home
port" theory favored by MR. JUSTICE JACKSON, 322 U.S. at
322 U. S. 306
fits a fleet of trucks at least as well as it does a fleet of
The central and decisive fact in this case is that respondent's
business has, as much as any transportation business can have, a
home. That home is Chicago. To the extent that respondent's
business is not confined within the City's limits, it revolves
around the City. It is fed by terminals for rail and sea
transportation which the City provides. It receives, much more
continuously than did the airline in the Northwest
case or the railroad in the Miller
City's protection, and it benefits from the City's public services.
In the circumstances, a tax of reasonable proportions, such as the
one in question, not shown in fact to be a burden on interstate
commerce, is not inconsistent with the Commerce Clause.
The judgment of the Supreme Court of Illinois is reversed, and
the cause remanded to that Court for proceedings not inconsistent
with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
"Every . . . truck . . . which shall be operated . . . for the
purpose of transporting . . . goods . . . within the city for hire
or reward, shall be deemed a cart. . . ."
"Any person engaged in the business of operating a cart shall be
deemed a carter."
"An annual license tax is imposed upon every carter for each
cart operated or controlled by him, according to the following
"* * * *"
Automotive vehicles --
Capacity not exceeding two tons . . . . . . . . . . . $ 8.25
Capacity exceeding two but not exceeding three tons . $11.00
Capacity exceeding three but not exceeding four tons. $13.20
Capacity exceeding four tons. . . . . . . . . . . . . $16.50
"* * * *"
"It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in the business
of a carter without first having paid such license tax."
"* * * *"
"Any person violating any of the provisions of this chapter
shall be fined. . . ."
Municipal Code of Chicago, ch. 163, Journal of the Proceedings
of the City Council of the City of Chicago, Illinois, January 14,
1949, p. 3679.
case was not considered by the Court in
Adams Express Co. v. New York, supra; Bowman v. Continental Oil
Co., supra; Cooney v. Mountain States Telephone Co., supra;
Sprout v. South Bend, supra.
It was inapplicable to the
facts of the first three cases. In Adams Express,
circumstances surrounding the imposition and enforcement of the tax
indicated an attempt to exert control over interstate commerce for
reasons and purposes not sanctioned by the Commerce Clause. In the
case, the taxpayer was a foreign corporation. In
this fact is recited by the Court. In
however, the taxpayer was a resident, and it would
appear that South Bend was his place of business. The
case rests, as is true of all decisions in this
field, on the precise facts surrounding the challenged tax its
scope, its relation to the taxing scheme of State or City, its
amount, its practical consequences, and other relevant factors.
MR. JUSTICE REED, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins, concurring
in the judgment.
I agree with the conclusion reached by the Court. In Pacific
Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Tax Commission, 297 U.
, it was held that
"No decision of this Court lends support to the proposition that
Page 344 U. S. 581
tax upon local business, otherwise valid, must be held void
merely because the local and interstate branches are for some
Page 297 U. S. 415
Cf. Sprout v. South Bend, 277 U.
, 277 U. S. 171
Pullman Co. v. Adams, 189 U. S. 420
The Chicago "carters tax" is strictly an occupational tax for
carrying goods within the city. City of Chicago v. Willett
Co., 406 Ill.
, 290, 94 N.E.2d
. I do not think that New York Central R. Co. v.
Miller, 202 U. S. 584
a precedent to uphold such a tax as this on the ground that the
taxpayer is a corporation of the taxing state and doing business in
Chicago. The tax in the Miller
case was measured by the
capital employed in the state. All railroad cars of the taxpayer
except those outside the state "during the whole tax year" were
included in the measure. Page 202 U. S. 595
The validity to so tax turned on the railroad's failure to show, by
some form of apportionment, taxability in other states. Page
202 U. S. 597
I find nothing in the conclusion and judgment of the Court in
Northwest Airlines v. Minnesota, 322 U.
, that would make the Miller
applicable to this situation, even if the "conclusion" were an
opinion of this Court. If I understand the Court's present opinion
correctly, it decides that this occupation tax is valid merely
because the taxpayer is an Illinois corporation with its business
home in Chicago, the taxing body. The facts that it is an Illinois
corporation and that its trucks are sometimes out of the state are
not controlling. The corporation is taxable because it does
intrastate business on the streets of Chicago.
Whether the tax is expressly declared to be for the use of the
highways or for other state services or protection rendered
interstate business is immaterial. This is a charge obviously for
the use of the highways of the City by the carters and therefore
valid. See Union
Page 344 U. S. 582
Co. v. Jensen, 322 U. S. 202
322 U. S.
-212; Southern Natural Gas Corp. v. Alabama,
301 U. S. 148
301 U. S. 153
and Caskey Baking Co. v. Virginia, 313 U.
, 313 U. S.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.
If a carrier had two trucks, one engaged exclusively in
intrastate commerce and the other engaged exclusively in interstate
commerce, I think this tax could not constitutionally be levied on
the latter. Like the tax in Sprout v. South Bend,
277 U. S. 163
277 U. S. 170
it is not designed "as a measure of the cost or value of the use of
the highways." As the Supreme Court of Illinois said, it is an
occupational tax. 406 Ill.
, 290, 94 N.E.2d
, 198. It therefore could not be exacted for the privilege
of engaging in interstate commerce. Sprout v. City of South
p. 277 U. S. 171
Spector Motor Service v. O'Connor, 340 U.
The incidence of the tax in the present case is no different. It
is a flat fee per truck. Respondent does not segregate its
intrastate from its interstate business -- nor is it possible for
it to do so, nor could respondent continue in business if there
were a segregation. 406 Ill.
, 291-293, 94 N.E.2d
. One truck often makes both intrastate and interstate
deliveries. The interstate business, by increasing the number of
trucks operated by respondent, therefore increases the amount of
the tax. That, for me, is enough to establish an unconstitutional
burden on interstate commerce. This case therefore is not
controlled by Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Tax
Comm'n, 297 U. S. 403
297 U. S. 414
where the interstate business did not increase the amount of the
The burden on commerce is as great whether the tax on the
interstate carrier is imposed by the state of its incorporation or
by another state. That is implicit in Sprout v. South Bend,
a case which it seems to me is faithful to the