According to the view we take of the case, it is not necessary to inquire into the special equities set forth in the bill and relied upon in the argument for complainant to show that this record presents a case for the interposition of a federal court, for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of a state tax. The primary and fundamental ground on which the maintenance of such a suit rests is the unlawfulness of the tax against which relief is sought, or, in other words, the invalidity or unconstitutionality of the legislative act under the authority of which the tax is imposed. It is true that this ground is not in itself sufficient. But when the illegality of the tax or the invalidity or unconstitutionality of the legislative act under which it is imposed is established, it becomes necessary to go further, and make out a case that can be brought under some recognized head of equity jurisdiction: such as, that the collection of the tax sought to be restrained may entail a multiplicity of suits; or cause some other irreparable injury, as, for instance, the ruin of complainant's business; or, where the property is real estate, throw a cloud upon the title of the complainant. Shelton v. Platt, 139 U.S. 591, 594; Allen v. Pullman's Palace Car Co., 139 U.S. 658, 661.
It is contended in behalf of the complainant (1) that the statute of Missouri, under the provisions of which the tax sought to be restrained is levied, imposes a tax upon interstate
We do not think that these propositions, taken in connection with the averments of the bill, present any ground justifying the interposition of a court of equity to enjoin the collection of the tax imposed by the statute in question. The first proposition, that the statute imposes a tax upon interstate commerce, and is, therefore, violative of what is known as the commercial clause of the constitution, is unsound. It is well settled that a State cannot lay a tax upon interstate commerce in any form, whether by way of duties laid on the transportation of the subjects of that commerce, or the receipts derived from that transportation, or on the occupation or business of carrying it on; for the reason that such taxation is a burden on that commerce and amounts to a regulation of it which belongs to Congress. Lyng v. Michigan, 135 U.S. 161; Leloup v. Port of Mobile, 127 U.S. 640; Western Union Tel. Co. v. Alabama, 132 U.S. 472; McCall v. California, 136 U.S. 104; Norfolk & Western Railroad v. Pennsylvania, 136 U.S. 114. The question on this branch of the case, therefore, is, — Was the business of this express company in the State of Missouri, on the receipts from which the tax in question was assessed under this act, interstate commerce? The allegation of the bill is very positive that in the prosecution of its business as an express company the complainant is engaged, in part, in the transportation of goods and other property between the States of Nebraska, Kansas, Texas and other States of the Union and the State of Missouri; and also in the business of carrying goods between different points within the limits of the State of Missouri. The question on this point, therefore, is narrowed down to the single inquiry, whether the tax complained
The second and third propositions stated above are reducible to the single contention, that the act in question violates the requirements of uniformity and equality of taxation prescribed
This court has repeatedly laid down the doctrine that diversity of taxation, both with respect to the amount imposed and the various species of property selected either for bearing its burdens or for being exempt from them, is not inconsistent with a perfect uniformity and equality of taxation in the proper sense of those terms; and that a system which imposes the same tax upon every species of property, irrespective of its nature or condition or class, will be destructive of the principle of uniformity and equality in taxation and of a just adaptation of property to its burdens.
The rules of taxation, in this respect, were well stated in the opinion of the court, delivered by Mr. Justice Bradley, in Bell's Gap Railroad v. Pennsylvania, 134 U.S. 232, 237, as follows: "The provision in the Fourteenth Amendment, that no State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, was not intended to prevent a State from adjusting its system of taxation in all proper and reasonable ways. It may, if it chooses, exempt certain classes of property from any taxation at all, such as churches, libraries and the property of charitable institutions. It may impose different specific taxes upon different trades and professions, and may vary the rates of excise upon various products; it may tax real estate and personal property in a different manner; it may tax visible property only, and not tax securities for payment of money: it may allow deductions for indebtedness, or not allow them... . It would, however, be impracticable and unwise to attempt to lay down any general rule or definition on the subject, that would include all cases. They must be decided as they arise. We think that we are safe in saying, that the Fourteenth Amendment was not intended to compel the State to adopt an iron rule of equal taxation. If that were its proper construction, it would not only supersede all those constitutional provisions and laws of some of the States, whose object is to secure equality of taxation,
In Home Ins. Co. v. New York, 134 U.S. 594, 606, 607, the court, speaking through Mr. Justice Field, said: "But the Amendment [the Fourteenth] does not prevent the classification of property for taxation — subjecting one kind of property to one rate of taxation, and another kind of property to a different rate — distinguishing between franchises, licenses and privileges, and visible and tangible property, and between real and personal property. Nor does the amendment prohibit special legislation. Indeed, the greater part of all legislation is special, either in the extent to which it operates, or the objects sought to be obtained by it. And when such legislation applies to artificial bodies, it is not open to objection if all such bodies are treated alike under similar circumstances and conditions, in respect to the privileges conferred upon them and the liabilities to which they are subjected. Under the statute of New York all corporations, joint stock companies and associations of the same kind are subjected to the same tax. There is the same rule applicable to all, under the same conditions, in determining the rate of taxation. There is no discrimination in favor of one against another of the same class;" citing a long list of authorities.
The contention of the complainant, however, in this connection is, that the rule of uniformity and equality of taxation is destroyed by the arbitrary discrimination involved in the definition of what shall be taxed under the act, imposing upon certain persons or associations taxes from which other persons or companies of precisely the same kind, doing exactly the same kind of business, under exactly the same conditions, are exempt. In other words, the contention is, that the act of the legislature arbitrarily defines what shall constitute an express company, and then lays a tax upon its business, while at the same
The fallacy of this argument lies in the assumption that the definition of what shall constitute an express company excludes from the classification companies which are as much engaged in the business, or as much under the same conditions, as are those which, under the definition, are subject to the tax.
The legislation in question cannot be considered as invidiously discriminating against the express companies defined by it and in favor of other companies or persons that may carry express matter on certain other conditions or under different circumstances. There is an essential difference between express companies defined by this act and railroad or steamboat companies or other companies that own their own means of transportation. The vital distinction is this: Railroad companies pay taxes on their road-beds, rolling stock and other
The opinion of the court below on this branch of the case is elaborately argued, and is conclusive. We concur in the reasoning of it as well as in the language employed, and refer to it as a correct expression of the law upon the subject.