Action by plaintiff in error, he will be referred to as plaintiff, to recover the sum of $298.34 as the first installment of an income tax paid, it is charged, under the threats and demands of Tait.
The tax was imposed under the Revenue Act of 1921, which provides by § 210 (42 Stat. 227, 233): "That, in lieu of the tax imposed by section 210 of the Revenue Act of 1918, there shall be levied, collected, and paid for each taxable year upon the net income of every individual a normal tax of 8 per centum of the amount of the net income in excess of the credits provided in section 216: Provided, That in the case of a citizen or resident of the United States the rate upon the first $4,000 of such excess amount shall be 4 per centum."
The question in the case, and which was presented by the demurrer to the declaration is, as expressed by plaintiff, whether Congress has power to impose a tax upon income received by a native citizen of the United States who, at the time the income was received, was permanently resident and domiciled in the City of Mexico, the income being from real and personal property located in Mexico.
Plaintiff assigns against the power not only his rights under the Constitution of the United States but under international law, and in support of the assignments cites many cases. It will be observed that the foundation of the assignments is the fact that the citizen receiving the income, and the property of which it is the product, are outside of the territorial limits of the United States. These two facts, the contention is, exclude the existence of the power to tax. Or to put the contention another way, as to the existence of the power and its exercise, the person receiving the income, and the property from which he receives it, must both be within the territorial limits of the United States to be within the taxing power of the United States. The contention is not justified, and that it is not justified is the necessary deduction of recent cases. In United States v. Bennett, 232 U.S. 299, the power of the United States to tax a foreign built yacht owned and used during the taxing period outside of the
It will be observed that the case contained only one of the conditions of the present case, the property taxed was outside of the United States. In United States v. Goelet, 232 U.S. 293, the yacht taxed was outside of the United States but owned by a citizen of the United States who was "permanently resident and domiciled in a foreign country." It was decided that the yacht was not subject to the tax — but this as a matter of construction. Pains were taken to say that the question of power was determined "wholly irrespective" of the owner's "permanent domicile in a foreign country." And the Court put out of view the situs of the yacht. That the Court had no doubt of the power to tax was illustrated by reference to the income tax laws of prior years and their express extension to those domiciled abroad. The illustration has pertinence to the case at bar, for the case at bar is concerned with an income tax, and the power to impose it.
We may make further exposition of the national power as the case depends upon it. It was illustrated at once in United States v. Bennett by a contrast with the power of a State. It was pointed out that there were limitations upon the latter that were not on the national power. The taxing power of a State, it was decided, encountered at its borders the taxing power of other States and was limited by them. There was no such limitation, it was pointed
The contention was rejected that a citizen's property without the limits of the United States derives no benefit from the United States. The contention, it was said, came from the confusion of thought in "mistaking the scope and extent of the sovereign power of the United States as a nation and its relations to its citizens and their relations to it." And that power in its scope and extent, it was decided, is based on the presumption that government by its very nature benefits the citizen and his property wherever found, and that opposition to it holds on to citizenship while it "belittles and destroys its advantages and blessings by denying the possession by government of an essential power required to make citizenship completely beneficial." In other words, the principle was declared that the government, by its very nature, benefits the citizen and his property wherever found and, therefore, has the power to make the benefit complete. Or to express it another way, the basis of the power to tax was not and cannot be made dependent upon the situs of the property in all cases, it being in or out of the United States, and was not and cannot be made dependent upon the domicile of the citizen, that being in or out of the United States, but upon his relation as citizen to the United States and the relation of the latter to him as citizen. The consequence of the relations is that the native citizen who is taxed may have domicile, and the property from which his income is derived may have situs, in a foreign country and the tax be legal — the government having power to impose the tax.
MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.