270 U.S. 245 (1926), 119, Iselin v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 119
Citation:270 U.S. 245, 46 S.Ct. 248, 70 L.Ed. 566
Party Name:Iselin v. United States
Case Date:March 01, 1926
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 245

270 U.S. 245 (1926)

46 S.Ct. 248, 70 L.Ed. 566



United States

No. 119

United States Supreme Court

March 1, 1926

Argued January 12, 1926



1. Par. 3 of § 800(a) of Revenue Act of 1918, laying taxes on theater and opera tickets sold at newstands, hotels, etc., for more than the "established price" at the ticket office of the theater or opera house, held inapplicable to sale by a stockholder of box tickets, issued as an incident of his investment in an opera house company, which were not sold at the box-office and for which there was no established price. P. 247.

2. A statute imposing taxes with particularity, and in plain, unambiguous language, cannot be enlarged by construction to cover other cases omitted through presumable inadvertence of the legislature. P. 250.

3. An administrative practice which enlarges the scope of an unambiguous statute, and which is neither uniform, general, nor long continued, cannot be given legal force or effect, nor be accepted as a reason why subsequent reenactment of the statute without change should be taken as a legislative interpretation of its original meaning as justifying such practice. P. 251.

59 Ct.Cls. 654 reversed.

Appeal from a judgment of the Court of Claims rejecting a claim for money paid by Georgine Iselin, under protest, as a tax on receipts from sale of admissions to an opera box.

Page 246

BRANDEIS, J., lead opinion

[46 S.Ct. 249] MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City is owned by a corporation which leased it to the producing company. The use of all the parterre boxes was reserved by the lessor, with the privilege of six free admissions to each box at every performance. Before the passage of the Revenue Law of 1918, the lessor conferred upon Georgine Iselin, as owner of 300 of its shares, a license so to use a designated parterre box. During the season of 1919-20, being authorized so to do, she sold through a personal agent the license to use her box for 47 of the 70 performances given during the season, and received therefor $9,525 net after deduction of the agent's commissions. On the amount received, Miss Iselin was assessed a tax of $3,352.50, under paragraph 3 of § 800(a) of the Revenue Act of 1918, Act of February 24, 1919, c. 18, 40 Stat. 1057, 1120-1121. She paid the amount under protest and presented a claim that it be refunded. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue rejected the application, holding that the tax was payable under paragraph 4 of that Act.1 Then Miss Iselin brought this suit in the Court of Claims to recover the amount. A judgment

Page 247

dismissing the petition, rendered upon findings of fact, was entered May 5, 1924. 59 Ct.Cls. 654. The case is here on appeal under § 242 of the Judicial Code.

Paragraph 3 of § 800(a), under which the tax was assessed, provides:

Upon tickets or cards of admission to theaters, operas, and other places of amusement, sold at news stands, hotels, and places other than the ticket offices of such theaters, operas, or other places of amusement at not to exceed 50 cents in excess of the sum of the established price therefor at such ticket offices plus the amount...

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