United Air Lines, Inc. v. Mahin,
410 U.S. 623 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United Air Lines, Inc. v. Mahin, 410 U.S. 623 (1973)

United Air Lines, Inc. v. Mahin

No. 71-862

Argued November 8, 1972

Decided March 5, 1973

410 U.S. 623


The Illinois use tax was applied to appellant's aviation fuel stored in the State and loaded aboard its aircraft there and consumed in interstate flights, the tax authorities having revised their previous "burn off" interpretation of a statutory exemption for temporary storage. Under the "burn off" interpretation, only fuel consumed in flight over Illinois was used to measure the tax imposed for storage before loading, but under the reinterpretation, all fuel loaded was deemed to measure the tax on the "use" of storage or withdrawal from storage. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the statute against appellant's contention that the tax, as reinterpreted, impermissibly burdened interstate commerce.


1. The statute as authoritatively construed by the State's highest court to tax storage, and not consumption, does not place an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce. Edelman v. Boeing Air Transport, Inc., 289 U. S. 249; Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis R. Co. v. Wallace, 288 U. S. 249. Cases allowing the taxation of storage of fuel before loading have not outlived their usefulness. Pp. 410 U. S. 626-630.

2. The "burn off" rule is not unconstitutional, being distinguishable from a tax imposed on consumption such as was invalidated in Helson v. Kentucky, 279 U. S. 245. Since some of the Illinois Supreme Court majority were under the mistaken impression that Helson precluded use of the "burn off" interpretation, the case is remanded to enable that court to construe the temporary storage provision under state law free from any constraint that such interpretation would not be constitutionally permissible. Pp. 410 U. S. 630-632

49 Ill.2d 45, 273 N.E.2d 585, vacated and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART and WHITE, JJ., joined, post, p. 410 U. S. 632. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 410 U. S. 639.

Page 410 U. S. 624

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