No. 446.

160 U.S. 660 (1896)


Supreme Court of United States.

Decided January 27, 1896.

Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. J.W. Gleed for plaintiff in error.

Mr. Abraham Bergen and Mr. C.T. Richardson for defendants in error.

MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

By the decision of the Supreme Court of Kansas, section 6847, General Statutes of that State, defining the word "credit" as used in the chapter providing for the assessment and collection of taxes, was held not to include shares of stock in a national or state bank, and the owners of such shares were held to have no right under that statute to deduct from the assessed value of their shares the amount of their debts. This court is bound by the interpretation given to the Kansas statute by the Supreme Court of that State, People v. Weaver, 100 U.S. 539, 541, and the only question that remains to be decided by us is whether, under that construction, the statute is in conflict with section 5219 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, which provides as follows: "Nothing herein shall prevent all the shares in any association from being included in the valuation of the personal property of the owner or holder of such shares in assessing taxes imposed by authority of the State within which the association is located, but the legislature of each State may determine and direct the manner and place of taxing all the shares of national banking associations located within the State, subject only to the two restrictions, that the taxation shall not be at a greater rate than is assessed upon other moneyed capital in the hands of individual citizens of such State, and that the shares of any national banking association owned by non-residents of any State shall be taxed in the city or town where the bank is located, and not elsewhere. Nothing herein shall be construed to exempt the real property of associations from either state, county or municipal taxes to the same extent, according to its value, as other real property is taxed."

The plaintiff in error claimed that an illegal discrimination was made against the holders of national bank stock, because the statute of the State of Kansas permits certain kinds of debts owing in good faith by any person, company or corporation to be deducted from the gross amount of credits belonging to such person, company or corporation in listing their property for taxation, while owners of shares of stock in national banks are not allowed to deduct their indebtedness from the value of their shares of stock, and for that reason the plaintiff says that the Kansas statute is in conflict with the above cited section 5219 of the statutes of the United States. It will be seen that the term "credit," when used in the Kansas statute, is defined by that statute to mean and include every demand for money, labor or other valuable thing, whether due or to become due, but not secured by a lien on real estate; and it is only from such credits, so defined, that the class of debts named in the statute and owing in good faith by any person, company or corporation may be deducted. There is no proof in the case as to the proportion which credits, from which such debts may be deducted, bear to the whole amount of the credits owned in the State, nor is there any proof as to what proportion the entire credits owned in the State bear to other moneyed capital owned therein. Debts owing to any person, company or corporation as depositors in any bank or banking association, or with any person or firm engaged in the business of banking in Kansas or elsewhere, cannot be deducted; and no person, company or corporation is entitled to any deduction on account of any bond, note or obligation given to any mutual insurance company, or deferred payment or loan for a policy of life insurance; nor on account of any unpaid subscriptions to any religious, literary, scientific or benevolent institution or society; nor can any debt be deducted from credits where the debt was created by a loan on government bonds or other taxable securities. (Section 6851, General Statutes of Kansas.)

It is thus seen that there is a very large and important class of what is termed moneyed capital from which no deductions are permitted on account of debts. The statute treats shares of stock in a national bank upon a perfect equality and in the same way as shares of stock in a state bank for the purpose of assessment and taxation.

In Mercantile Bank v. New York, 121 U.S. 138, it was held that the main purpose of Congress in fixing limits to taxation on investments in shares of national banks was to render it impossible for a State in levying such a tax to create and foster an unequal and unfriendly competition by favoring state institutions or individuals carrying on a similar business and operations and investments of a like character. Mr. Justice Matthews, in delivering the opinion of the court in the above cited case, gave an exhaustive review of the cases which had been decided in this court up to that time, under this section of the United States statute, and it is evident from the opinion and decision of the court in that case that the intent of the United States statute was to prevent an unjust discrimination against the moneyed capital invested in shares of national banks, by rendering it "impossible for the State in levying a tax on such shares to create and foster an unequal and unfriendly competition by favoring institutions or individuals carrying on a similar business and operations and investments of a like character." Mercantile Bank case, supra, 155.

From the record in this case it is wholly impossible to determine that there is any discrimination against the holders of national bank stock. In order to come to a decision in favor of the plaintiff in error it would be necessary for this court to take what counsel for plaintiff calls judicial notice of what is claimed to be a fact, viz., that the amount of moneyed capital in the State of Kansas from which debts may be deducted, as compared with the moneyed capital invested in shares of national banks, was so large and substantial as to amount to an illegal discrimination against national bank shareholders. This we cannot do. There is no proof whatever upon the subject. The state court has itself determined from its own knowledge that the credits from which debts may be deducted do not constitute a large or even material part of the moneyed capital of the State, and, on the contrary, that court says that debts secured by liens on real estate, money invested in corporate stocks of all kinds and descriptions, including railroad, banking, insurance, loan and trust companies, and all the multifarious forms of moneyed securities, moneys on deposit subject to call, and other forms of invested capital, constitute the great bulk of the moneyed capital in that State, and from all such moneyed capital no deduction for debts is allowed.

As the record appears there is no fact of which the court can take judicial notice. The relative proportions in which the moneyed capital of the State of Kansas is invested in the various kinds of securities to be therein found, this court cannot judicially know. When proof shall be made regarding that matter, it may then be determined intelligently whether, within the case of The Mercantile Bank, supra, there has been a real discrimination against the holders of national bank shares and hence a violation of the above cited act of Congress. The single fact that the statute of Kansas permits some debts to be deducted from some moneyed capital, but not from that which is invested in the shares of national banks, is not sufficient to show such violation. The judgment must be



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