This is a suit brought by Jennie D. Keyes, as plaintiff-respondent, a resident of Oregon (hereinafter called the taxpayer), against the Tax Commission of the State of Oregon, the defendant-appellant (hereinafter called the Commission), for the refund of a portion of income taxes which she claims she was entitled to as a credit on her personal income tax returns for the years 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950. These returns included the Canadian income received by the taxpayer in those years. She had previously paid under protest the amounts for which recovery is now sought. Her application to the Commission for the relief in the first instance was adversely determined. She thereafter filed a complaint in the circuit court pursuant to § 110-1629, OCLA (now ORS 315.665). From a decree of the circuit court in accordance with the taxpayer's contention, the Commission brings this appeal.
There is no dispute as to the facts. No question is raised as to the timeliness of the taxpayer's application for the relief sought. All the income with which we are concerned was derived as dividends from various Canadian corporations. It is admitted, too, that if the taxpayer is not entitled to a credit against her Oregon taxes under § 110-1605a, OCLA, she was entitled to apply the same amounts as deductions under § 110-1611 (1) (b), OCLA.
The amount of a tax of 15% for each year was deducted by the Canadian corporation from the face amount of the dividend distributed to the taxpayer and the tax retained remitted directly to the Canadian authorities. Thus, if the dividend was $1,000, $150 was subtracted and the taxpayer received the balance of $850. No deductions or exemptions were allowed to nonresident taxpayers before the 15% was withheld. In the same kind of transaction the resident stockholders
The overpayment of the Oregon income taxes which the taxpayer asked to have returned, as allowed by the circuit court, aggregates $9,344.42 for the tax years 1947-1950.
During 1947-1950, inclusive, the Oregon Personal Income Tax Law made provision for a tax credit to Oregon residents under certain conditions, stipulated in what was then codified as § 110-1605a, OCLA (Oregon Laws 1947, ch 353, p 537), and which we hereinafter call the tax credit statute. This is the section upon which the taxpayer relies to effect her recovery. It reads, in so far as pertinent to the matter:
The income received from the Canadian sources was the amount derived there, less the Canadian taxes deducted at the source.
We find that the Canadian income taxes paid by the taxpayer for the years 1947 and 1948 were paid under "The Income War Tax Act," as subsequently amended (Statutes of Canada 1917, ch 28, p 171), hereinafter called the Act of 1917. The Canadian taxes paid by her in 1949 and 1950 were under "The Income Tax Act" (Statutes of Canada 1948 (vol 1), ch 52, p 475), hereinafter called the Act of 1948, and which superseded the Act of 1917. Generalizing, these two Canadian income tax acts follow the same pattern as to nonresidents receiving dividends distributed in Canada. It is the particular provisions of these Canadian tax laws which are, in the last analysis, determinative of the plaintiff's right to a credit under the Oregon law.
The Commission tenders but one assignment of error: that during the years 1947-1950, inclusive, the Oregon tax credit statute allows credits only as to "net income taxes" paid to another state or country, when imposed under the laws thereof "irrespective of the residence or domicile of the recipient" of the income.
1, 2. Referring to tax exemption statutes generally, we have always applied a rule of strict construction. See Methodist Book Concern v. State Tax Commission, 186 Or. 585, 592, 208 P.2d 319 and cases there cited. Also see Bigelow v. Reeves, 285 Ky. 831, 149 S.W.2d 499. A provision allowing a credit against a state tax is, in effect, an exemption from liability for a tax already determined and admittedly valid. It is, therefore, in
The foregoing rules are equally applicable to statutory provisions allowing credit for income taxes paid to another state or country. Miller v. McColgan, supra.
Our interest is first challenged by the phrase in the tax credit statute reading: "net income taxes imposed by and paid to another state or country." The difference between a tax measured by gross receipts
3. We hold, as contended by the Commission, that to constitute a "net income tax," the statutes imposing such a tax must grant certain deductions or exemptions from the taxpayer's gross income. Without "deductions" of a kind there cannot be a "net" income. Hamilton National Bank v. District of Columbia, 156 F.2d 843, 844 (1946); Kings County Trust Co. v. Law, 194 NY Supp 370, 372; Morley v. Remmel, 215 Ark. 434, 221 S.W.2d 51; White v. Atkins (CCA-1), 69 F.2d 960, 962. Such conclusion is in harmony with the words "net income" as defined by § 110-1604, OCLA. "Net income" and "gross income," as employed in the foregoing phrases descriptive of taxes, comports with the familiar meanings assigned to them by those engaged in trade and commerce. What are permissible deductions in the determination of a "net income tax" may vary as between states and countries and vary from time to time within a given state or country. They cannot be reduced to an inflexible rule. At best we can only illustrate with items with which we are familiar, such as operating expenses, interest, taxes, losses, debts, depreciation and obsolescence.
The adoption of a firm definition for "net income taxes" is a matter of prime importance in the instant matter, because it becomes the measure whereby we will ultimately determine whether the applicable tax laws of Canada are, in fact, "net income tax laws," or "gross income tax laws," as to plaintiff, a nonresident of Canada.
The taxpayer does not too seriously contradict the definition of "net income taxes" here approved. The difference between the parties on that point is not
If the Canadian tax is, in fact, a gross income tax, as claimed by the Commission, then the taxpayer cannot enjoy the benefits she presently seeks under the Oregon tax credit statute. But the Commission's objection to the taxpayer's claim has a double aspect. It not only contends that the taxpayer paid a gross income tax upon her dividends received in Canada, but also insists she was taxed under laws which were not common in application to residents and nonresidents alike. We will defer further reference to this later contention until after we dispose of the prime question as to the kind of tax which was charged against the plaintiff's dividends, except to observe that if the Commission can demonstrate that (1) it was not a net income tax or (2) that the law under which plaintiff paid her tax was not uniform in its application between residents and nonresidents of Canada, then, in either event, the judgment in favor of the plaintiff-respondent must be reversed.
We will now examine the Canadian statutes prevailing at the time the plaintiff's Canadian income taxes were paid.
The tax act of 1917, as originally enacted, did not tax Canadian dividends received by nonresident aliens such as plaintiff. Its impositions were then limited to
The amendment of 1933 added a new section 9B, the pertinent part of which reads:
There were amendments to the Act of 1917, subsequent to 1933, one of which increased the nonresident tax from 5 to 15% (Statutes of Canada 1940-41, ch 18 § 16). All of Mrs. Keyes' taxes were at the 15% rate. Chapter 28, § 13, paragraph (4) (Statutes of Canada 1942-43), provides that taxes collected under section 9B, supra, be withheld at the source and remittance made directly to the government authorities. The same section, paragraph 5, made the following provision:
The Act of 1948, although adopted in that year, was first applied to incomes received in 1949. Section 2 of Part I reads:
There then follow the usual provisions of a general net income tax act, describing the amounts to be included in computing net income (section 6, et seq), deductions allowed in computing income (sections 11, 25 and 26), deductions not allowed in computing net income (section 12) and the usual procedural requirements.
Later we find sections 96 and 97 so segregated as to give special emphasis to the status of nonresident Taxpayers. They are headlined: "Part II — Tax on Income From Canada of Non-Resident Persons" and read:
Section 98 provides, as did the Act of 1917, that the Canadian corporation paying the dividends shall withhold the 15% tax and remit the same to the Canadian taxing authorities.
4. Summarizing the content of the Act of 1948, in so far as it touches the dividends received by the taxpayer in the instant matter in 1949 and 1950, we find it follows the same pattern laid down by the Act of 1917, i.e., the tax is levied at the source without any reduction of the gross amount received for the deductions, exemptions, credits, etc., accorded a resident taxpayer who receives dividends of like amount from the same Canadian corporation in the year.
The taxpayer seeks to circumvent the holding of the Commission by claiming that because the dividend was once a part of the "net income" of the Canadian corporation, it necessarily continues to maintain that "net" characteristic in her hands as a stockholder and, therefore, the Canadian taxes imposed upon her dividends are "net income taxes," and not "gross income taxes," as urged by the Commission. She attempts to support her position in three ways: (1) by a specious argument which would force the Commission to treat the stockholder and the corporation as one entity; (2) by recourse to certain California decisions which we will later discuss; and (3) by a claim that the construction applied by the Commission violates constitutional provisions mandating uniformity in tax legislation.
The taxpayer urges us to avoid "the legal fiction regarding corporate entities," i.e., by treating the stockholder and the corporation as one entity, in this
The very laws of Canada under which the plaintiff-respondent's taxes were paid preclude the propriety of her construction of merger of corporate and stockholder entity and her proposition that the Canadian tax as to her, a nonresident stockholder, "is a tax imposed upon funds which were net income to the recipient."
To follow the respondent's suggestion of merger of entities, would compel us to close our eyes to the plain provisions of the Canadian Acts of 1917 and 1948, where these acts provide for and maintain the separation of the individual stockholder as an entity and apart from the corporation from whence his dividend is derived and where each of these entities is separately taxed under provisions different in rates and different
Moreover, it is this very statutory concept of separate entities with its different rates and methods for the computation of income tax for individuals and corporations under the Acts of 1917 and 1948 that give most persuasive support to the Commission's argument that the income tax levied against the dividends distributed to a nonresident is a gross income tax and not a net income tax, as asserted by the taxpayer in this matter.
"Gross income" as defined by Oregon law comprehends "dividends, including stock dividends." § 110-1603, OCLA (Its present counterpart is ORS 316.105.) Even if we were at liberty to adopt the Oregon definition of "gross income" in construing the Canadian Acts of 1917 and 1948, we would find it unnecessary, because both the Canadian acts furnish definitions of "income" which warrant the conclusion that dividends in the hands of the taxpayer are treated as "gross" income and not as "net" income as argued by the plaintiff taxpayer in this matter, and notwithstanding the absence of definitions for these terms. The conclusion is unavoidable that both Canadian Tax Acts and the Oregon Income Act are in harmony with respect to treating corporate dividends as "gross income" when received by the stockholder.
Turning to the Act of 1917, under which the Canadian government made its levies against plaintiff's Canadian dividends for the years 1947 and 1948, we find "income" is defined in Statutes of Canada 1917, ch 28, § 3, p 171 as including "dividends * * * from stocks, or any other investment." Although not particularly
Although different wording is employed in the Act of 1948, the same result is achieved. Section 2 (3) of the Act of 1948 provides: "The taxable income of a taxpayer for a taxation year is his income for the year minus the deductions permitted by Division C." (Emphasis ours.) Section 6 of the Act of 1948 sets out the "Amounts Included in Computing Income" (headline to section 6, as published). Section 6 (a) provides for the inclusion of "amounts received in the year as * * * dividends." Sections 25 and 26 constitute that part of Division C which provide allowable exemptions and deductions from income as defined by section 6, and before the tax is computed on the balance, and in this respect is much like those of the Oregon Act. Thus, it is evident from the Canadian Acts that what is reserved by the corporation as undivided profits or made available for present distribution as dividends to its stockholders is, while in that aggregate form, "net income" to the corporation upon which it, as an entity, pays taxes (See section 2 (d) and section
The taxpayer places great dependence upon two California cases. These must necessarily be considered in connection with a third, Miller v. McColgan, supra, which preceded them. In the three cases, credit was claimed for taxes collected against resident Californians by foreign countries because of income said to have had its source in the countries imposing the tax. This trilogy of cases includes: Miller v. McColgan, supra, a decision by the Supreme Court relating to a credit for taxes paid by Miller in the Philippines; Burgess v. State (1945), 71 Cal.App.2d 412, 162 P.2d 855; and Henley v. Franchise Tax Board (1954), 122 Cal.App.2d 1, 264 P.2d 179. Both of the last two cases concern credits for payment of Canadian taxes, and are decisions of California's District Court, an intermediate appellate court of that state.
All three of the cases construe the same tax credit statute of that state, section 25 (a) of the California Personal Income Tax Act of 1935, reading:
The Miller case, apparently relying on the authority of First National Bank v. Maine (1932), 284 U.S. 312, 76 L ed 313, 52 S.Ct. 174, 77 ALR 1401, declared that the taxation of intangibles was subject to the rule of mobilia sequuntur personam, and, therefore, the stock in the Philippine corporation being then in California, it was held that the dividends from that corporation were income derived in the state of California and not "from sources without the state." (Section 25 (a), California Personal Income Tax Act of 1935, supra) The clause quoted was a condition precedent to obtaining the credit claimed in California for the taxes which a foreign state or country had previously levied against the same item of income. As a holding applying the rule of mobilia sequuntur personam, the Miller case has no value here. Our interest in it is derived from the taxpayer's repeated assertions that the Miller case was overruled by the Henley case and her reliance upon a note found at page 655 of ALR2d Supplement Service to vols 1-50 ALR2d where will be found a statement implying that by reason of the Henley decision Miller v. McColgan, supra, is no longer the law in California. The taxpayer would have us believe that Henley is now controlling, but we are not so impressed.
Henley rests upon the sole authority of the Burgess case, supra (264 P.2d 179) for its construction of the Canadian tax statute (Act of 1917). In Burgess the
The Henley case, however, sought to establish a credit arising out of corporate dividends taxed in Canada, as the taxpayer here attempts to do. Under the rule of the Miller case, the application for credit would have been denied on the ground that the source of the income was within the state of California. The mobilia sequuntur personam rule is, however, involved in the Henley case by the conclusion of the district court that the Miller case was based upon First National Bank of Boston v. Maine, supra, which federal holding was specifically overruled in 1942 by State Tax Commission of Utah v. Aldrich, 316 U.S. 174, 180, 86 L ed 1358, 62 S.Ct. 1008. For that reason, it was assumed in Henley that Miller v. McColgan, supra, fell with the case of the First National Bank of Boston v. Maine, supra. The district court, therefore, suggested that "Miller v. McColgan is not the law today." (264 P.2d 179, 181) With the Miller case thus disposed of, the court then proceeded to consider the Canadian act as the same was construed in Burgess relative to the tax against the trust shares even though the taxes in Henley were imposed against corporate dividends and not trust shares.
The fundamental error in the Burgess case, repeated in Henley, is the same error the respondent taxpayer presses upon us here, that is: she asks us to assume that because dividends reserved for distribution by a corporation are "net income" while the fund
We also note that the facts in the Henley and Burgess cases disclose that all Canadian taxes paid were under the Act of 1917 and prior to its amendment in 1942, which added subsection 5 to section 9B, previously referred to. This was a substantial change of distinguishing importance so far as nonresident Canadian taxpayers were concerned. The California cases, i.e., Burgess and Henley, are only interested in taxes imposed under the Act of 1917 and have no reference to the Act of 1948, under which Mrs. Keyes, the taxpayer here, was taxed in 1949 and 1950. We observe, too, that in the Burgess case the conclusion of the California court in contruing the operation of the Canadian law is predicated solely upon its own reasoning without aid of or reference to any Canadian decision; indeed, without reference to any judicial opinion of any jurisdiction, including California. For definitions of "net income" and "gross income," the Burgess case refers to the California statutory definitions. (162 P.2d 855, 856) The district court gives much weight to a stipulation of the facts which are only summarily presented in the opinion. To what extent these facts are entitled to the judicial respect accorded them, we
Since the decision in the Henley case in 1954, considerable doubt has been raised in certain official quarters of California concerning the validity of the holding in the Henley case to the effect that the Miller decision was no longer the law. On the advice of the attorney general, the Franchise Tax Board of that state is following Miller as controlling authority and not the Henley decision (See P-H State and Local Tax Service, California, p 58, 137). Also see Appeal of Scanlon (April 20, 1955) before California State Board of Equalization (CCH: 2 Cal Tax Rep, § 200-341). It was an appeal from action of California Franchise Tax Board denying claim of Scanlon for refunds on account of taxes paid in Canada on dividends from Canadian corporations. Petitioner's claim in the Scanlon matter was denied on authority of Miller v. McColgan, supra, and with a statement implying the Miller case was untouched by the holding in State Tax Commission of Utah v. Aldrich, supra, because "no federal question was involved."
While we appreciate that the opinions of the attorney general and of the Board of Equalization are not controlling, they, nevertheless, cast a cloud on the plaintiff-respondent's claims for the final and persuasive character of Henley in that state. We submit that if the California Supreme Court continues to cling to the tax formula followed in Miller, then nothing said in any of the California cases can be of any value to respondent here.
Our own conclusion as to the validity of the Commission's construction of the Canadian tax acts gathers additional support from the Commission's regulation
5, 6. We take judicial knowledge of administrative interpretation of tax statutes by the Tax Commission. Although such rules promulgated by the Tax Commission or other state administrative agency are not controlling, their contemporaneous construction of an act is, nevertheless, highly persuasive, especially where such rules have been in effect for a long term of time as a basis for determining technical and involved matters such as here presented. Broadway-Madison Corporation v. Fisher, 164 Or. 401, 408; 102 P.2d 194; Ollilo v. Clatskanie P.U.D., 170 Or. 173, 181, 132 P.2d 416; Allen v. Multnomah County, 179 Or. 548, 564, 173 P.2d 475.
We, therefore, give weight to the following regulation of the Oregon Tax Commission which has been in effect since 1941, the year of the adoption of the tax credit statute (§ 110-1605a, OCLA, supra). It has since been the Commission's guide in the administration of that act.
We hold that the tax imposed by the Canadian law upon the dividends received by Mrs. Keyes, the plaintiff-respondent, was a gross income tax.
7-9. We are in accord with the taxpayer's representation that the state statute is intended "to prevent or alleviate double taxation." All authorities counsel avoidance of double taxation whenever practicable, but they are agreed that double taxation as such is not prohibited by either the state or the federal Constitution. Standard Lumber Co. v. Pierce, 112 Or. 314, 339, 228 P 812; Baker v. Druesedow, 263 U.S. 137, 68 L ed 212, 44 S.Ct. 40; Illinois Central Railroad Co. v. Minnesota, 309 U.S. 157, 84 L ed 670, 676, 60 S.Ct. 419. It is only when discrimination or want of uniformity results, as a consequence of double taxation, that the law is invalid because being so it contravenes some constitutional guaranty. Kidd v. Alabama, 188 U.S. 730, 47 L ed 669, 673.
10. The fact that the Oregon statute allows a tax credit for net income tax payments made outside of the state (§ 110-1605a, OCLA) and only a deduction for gross income tax payments made in other jurisdictions (§ 110-1611 (1) (b), OCLA) may seem harsh to respondent and others similarly situated, but it does not warrant the court giving the tax credit statute a judicial amendment in order to avoid what such taxpayers believe to be economically unwise or inequitable results.
11, 12. The province of the courts is to declare what the legislature has done, not what it should have done, and no such construction as proposed by the respondent will be judicially applied unless the statute "is reasonably
The taxpayer argues that the interpretation of § 110-1605a, OCLA, made by the Commission, violates the uniformity provisions of the state Constitution, citing Art I, § 32 and Art IX, § 1. These articles lay out the essentials for a constitutional tax with emphasis on "uniformity on the same class of subjects." Respondent does not deny the power of the legislature to tax under the classifications made by the Oregon act. She further agrees that there is nothing in the state Constitution to prohiibt making reasonable and natural classifications for the purpose of taxation, but, on the other hand, contends that proper classification requires the allowance of credit to all Oregon residents on all types of income taxes paid to all foreign jurisdictions whether of a discriminatory character or not.
The classification established by the legislature in § 110-1605a, OCLA, includes only those residents of Oregon who pay net income taxes to foreign states on income also taxed in Oregon, provided the tax imposed by the foreign jurisdiction is assessed by it without discrimination as to type and rate between the residents and nonresidents of the foreign state.
13. The power of the state to make reasonable and natural classifications is clear and beyond question. 51 Am Jur 230, Taxation § 173; 1 Cooley, Taxation (4th ed) 705, § 332; Methodist Book Concern v. State Tax Commission, supra.
14. Absolute or perfect equality and uniformity in taxation, being impossible of attainment, is not required, and as long as there is substantial uniformity in the application of taxing statutes, the constitutional provisions relating to equality and uniformity are not violated. 84 CJS 82, Taxation § 23b; Yamhill County v. Foster, 53 Or. 124, 129, 99 P 286.
We find no merit in the taxpayer's argument that the tax credit statute is unconstitutional.
15. But even if we assume that the respondent paid a net income tax in Canada as she contends, she is still confronted with the problem of meeting the second condition to the extension of the credit claimed, i.e., the tax imposed under the foreign law must be made "irrespective of the residence or domicile of the recipient." (§ 110-1605a (1) (a), OCLA, supra) This is a condition she cannot meet.
It is respondent's contention that these last-quoted words should be interpreted to mean that the credit should be allowed for taxes paid to the foreign country or state on income derived from within that state or
This is a tortured construction of these words, submitted without citation to authority, which neither conforms to the purpose of the Oregon statute nor the pattern of the Canadian acts as to nonresidents. If the Canadian acts levied a tax alike as to residents and nonresidents, then there might be some substance to the argument. The phrase used and which respondent misconstrues, might well be said to have been so written in the hope to induce foreign countries to levy income taxes without discrimination in favor of their own people and against investors from our country.