This is an appeal under § 237 of the Judicial Code, from a decree of the Supreme Court of Mississippi, 162 Miss. 338; 137 So. 503, upholding the Mississippi income tax law [c. 132, Miss. Laws of 1924, as amended in 1928, c. 124, 2 Miss. Code Ann. (1930) 2136], which, as applied
Appellant, a citizen and resident of Mississippi, brought the present suit to set aside the assessment of a tax upon so much of his net income for 1929 as arose from the construction by him of public highways in the State of Tennessee. The taxing statute was challenged on the ground that in so far as it imposes a tax on income derived wholly from activities carried on outside the state, it deprived appellant of property without due process of law, and that in exempting corporations, which were his competitors, from a tax on income derived from like activities carried on outside the state, it denied to him the equal protection of the laws.
The obligation of one domiciled within a state to pay taxes there, arises from unilateral action of the state government in the exercise of the most plenary of sovereign powers, that to raise revenue to defray the expenses of government and to distribute its burdens equably among those who enjoy its benefits. Hence, domicile in itself establishes a basis for taxation. Enjoyment of the privileges of residence within the state, and the attendant right to invoke the protection of its laws, are inseparable from the responsibility for sharing the costs of government. See Fidelity & Columbia Trust Co. v. Louisville, 245 U.S. 54, 58; Maguire v. Trefry, 253 U.S. 12, 14, 17; Kirtland v. Hotchkiss, 100 U.S. 491, 498; Shaffer v. Carter, 252 U.S. 37, 50. The Federal Constitution imposes on the states no particular modes of taxation, and apart from the specific grant to the federal government of the exclusive
Taxation at the place of domicile of tangibles located elsewhere has been thought to be beyond the jurisdiction of the state, Union Refrigerator Transit Co. v. Kentucky, 199 U.S. 194; Frick v. Pennsylvania, 268 U.S. 473, 488-489; but considerations applicable to ownership of physical objects located outside the taxing jurisdiction, which have led to that conclusion, are obviously inapplicable to the taxation of intangibles at the place of domicile or of privileges which may be enjoyed there. See Foreign Held Bond Case, 15 Wall. 300, 319; Frick v. Pennsylvania, supra, p. 494. And the taxation of both by the state of the domicile has been uniformly upheld. Kirtland v. Hotchkiss, supra; Fidelity & Columbia Trust Co. v. Louisville, supra; Blodgett v. Silberman, 277 U.S. 1; Maguire v. Trefry, supra; compare Farmers Loan & Trust Co. v. Minnesota, 280 U.S. 204; First National Bank v. Maine, 284 U.S. 312.
The present tax has been defined by the Supreme Court of Mississippi as an excise and not a property tax, Hattiesburg Grocery Co. v. Robertson, 126 Miss. 34; 88 So. 4; Knox v. Gulf, M. & N.R. Co., 138 Miss. 70; 104 So. 689, but in passing on its constitutionality we are concerned only with its practical operation, not its definition or the precise form of descriptive words which may be applied to it. See Educational Films Corp. v. Ward, 282 U.S. 379, 387; Pacific Co. v. Johnson, 285 U.S. 480; Shaffer v. Carter, supra, pp. 54-55.
It is enough, so far as the constitutional power of the state to levy it is concerned, that the tax is imposed
The Supreme Court of Mississippi found it unnecessary to pass upon the validity of so much of the statute, added by the amendment of 1928, as exempted domestic corporations from the tax on income derived from activities outside the state. It said that if the amendment were valid, appellant could not complain; if invalid, he would still be subject to the tax, since the act which it amended, § 11, c. 132, Laws of 1924, would then remain in full force, and under it individuals and domestic corporations are taxed alike. Knox v. Gulf, M. & N.R. Co., supra.
The statute relieves domestic corporations from the tax only in so far as their income is derived from activities carried on outside the state. The appellant is thus compelled to pay a tax from which his competitors, if domestic corporations, are relieved, and this, it is urged, is so plainly arbitrary as to infringe the equal protection clause.
But, as there is no constitutional requirement that a system of taxation should be uniform as applied to individuals and corporations, regardless of the circumstances in which it operates, acceptance of this contention would relieve the appellant from the burden which rests on him to overcome the presumption of facts supporting constitutionality, which attaches to all legislative acts, and would require us to assume that there is no state of facts reasonably to be conceived which could afford a rational basis for distinguishing, for taxation purposes, between income of individuals and that of domestic corporations, derived from business carried on without the state. Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co., 220 U.S. 61, 78-79; Rast v. Van Deman & Lewis Co., 240 U.S. 342, 357; O'Gorman & Young v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 282 U.S. 251, 257-258.
What the local conditions are in Mississippi and its neighboring states with respect to businesses like the present, carried on across state lines by individuals and corporations, does not appear. How the statutory provisions now in question are related to others by which a permissible divergence in state policy with respect to the taxation of corporations and of individuals may be effected, is not shown. See General American Tank Car Corp. v. Day, 270 U.S. 367, 373; Interstate Busses Corp. v. Blodgett, 276 U.S. 245, 251; Farmers & Mechanics Savings Bank v. Minnesota, 232 U.S. 516, 529 et seq. We cannot say that investigation in these fields would not disclose
Apart from other considerations which may have led to the present legislation as an integral part of the state system of taxation of the income of corporations, one which affords a rational basis for the distinction made, is the fact that the state has adopted generally a policy of avoiding double taxation of the same economic interest in corporate income, by taxing either the income of the corporation or the dividends of its stockholders, but not both. See §§ 5033 (a), 5033 (b) (11), 5033 (b) (8). In the case of corporate income and dividends attributable to business done outside the state and received by stockholders of domestic corporations, the stockholders are taxed, and not the corporation. That was held in Franklin v. Carter, 51 F.2d 345, to be a sufficient ground for upholding a statute of Oklahoma, assailed as denying the equal protection of the laws, which had substantially the same features as the present statute. See also Conner v. State, 82 N.H. 126, 132; 130 Atl. 357. The question presented thus differs from any raised in Quaker City Cab Co. v. Pennsylvania, 277 U.S. 389, and Royster Guano Co. v. Virginia, 253 U.S. 412. Compare White River Lumber Co. v. Arkansas, 279 U.S. 692.
The equal protection clause does not require the state to maintain a rigid rule of equal taxation, to resort to close distinctions, or to maintain a precise scientific uniformity; and possible differences in tax burdens not shown to be substantial or which are based on discriminations not shown to be arbitrary or capricious, do not fall within constitutional prohibitions. Ohio Oil Co. v. Conway, 281 U.S. 146,
MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER dissents from so much of the opinion as concerns the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.