Kimball v. The Collector
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77 U.S. 436 (1870)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Kimball v. The Collector, 77 U.S. 10 Wall. 436 436 (1870)
Kimball v. The Collector
77 U.S. (10 Wall.) 436
Under the proviso to the Act of March 3, 1857, 11 Stat. at Large 192, which act allows an importer to make additions to the value of goods as given in the entry or invoice, and which proviso provides
"That under no circumstances shall the duty be assessed upon an amount less than the invoice or entered value, any law of Congress to the contrary notwithstanding,"
and the act of the same day (ib., 199), which enacts that unmanufactured sheep's wool above the value of 20 cents shall pay an ad valorem duty of 24 percent, but if "of the value o 20 cents or less, at the place of exportation, shall be exempt from duty," the invoice and entered value (which in this case was the actual cost), and not any lower market value of the goods at the date and place of exportation, is the value upon which the duty is to be assessed.
The fifth section of an Act of March 3, 1857, [Footnote 1] "reducing the duties on importations and for other purposes," imposes an ad valorem duty of 24 percent on unmanufactured wool, but exempts from duty such wool (being sheep's) "of the value of 20 cents per pound or less at the place of exportation."
Another act of the same day, amendatory of an act of 1846, allows the importer to make such addition in the entry to the cost or value of the imports given in the invoice as in his opinion may raise the same to the true market value in the country whence exported. The collector is then to have them appraised, and if the appraised value exceeds by 10 percent the value declared as above on entry, a duty of 20 percent ad valorem is to be added to the duty imposed by law. And the act concludes:
"Provided nevertheless that under no circumstances shall the duty be assessed upon an amount less than the invoice or entered value, any law of Congress to the contrary notwithstanding."
This enactment and this proviso being in force, Mr. Cobb, then Secretary of the Treasury, made in September, 1857, soon after the passage of them, a decision thus:
"In estimating the foreign value of wool with reference to its exemption from or liability to duty, the appraisers can determine such value independently of the invoice, by prices current and other reliable means of information, of the value of the article in foreign markets, such as they employ in ascertaining the foreign values of other staple articles of import."
In this state of things, Kimball bought at Cape Town, Africa, a quantity of wool of the sort above mentioned at 10 pence sterling (somewhat more than 20 cents federal money) a pound. He did not, however, ship it at once, but kept it on hand at Cape Town. Some months, afterwards -- that is to say in June, 1861, he shipped it to the United States, the price of wool at the date of shipment having
fallen to 8 1/2 pence per pound (less than 20 cents federal money). The wool, however, was invoiced in accordance with the requirements of law at its actual cost, 10 pence sterling per pound, and was entered according to the invoice value, which of course made it dutiable at the rate of 24 percent ad valorem.
The appraisers reported upon the invoice:
"Value correct in English weight, April 25, 1861."
This report was in accordance with a custom prevailing in their department to make invoices in this manner, in which the price stated is high enough to cover the market value, and the duties, $15,651, were accordingly assessed upon it at this value.
After the appraisers had made their report and duties had been estimated on the wool, but before payment of them by the importer, the collector requested the appraisers to make a reexamination of this wool and a formal appraisement of its value. The appraisers, in reply, declined to make any appraisement of it at less than the invoice price, giving as a reason that they could not do this by law; but, at the collector's request, they made to him a statement in writing, which they expressly declared was not an official appraisement, in which they stated the market value of this wool in the principal markets of the country from which it was exported, to have been at the time of its exportation, 8 pence 3 farthings per pound, less than 20 cents federal money, and a rate at which the wool would, of course, have been duty free.
The decision of Mr. Cobb was not brought to the knowledge of the appraisers at the time of their appraisement of this wool.
The importer having complied with all the technical and formal requirements necessary to enable him to maintain an action under the act of Congress against the collector for the recovery of duties illegally exacted, brought the suit below to recover these, it being agreed by the parties that if, upon the case stated, the value of this wool, as far as the
laws of the United States were concerned, could be considered as less than its invoice price, then judgment should be for the importer; otherwise for the collector.
The court below gave judgment for the collector, and the importer brought the case here, the question, and the only question, being whether, taking into consideration the language of the first statute of 1857 and also that of the proviso to the other act of the same day, the collector should have allowed this wool to be entered free when the price stated in the invoice was more than 20 cents and its actual value was less.