302 U.S. 90 (1937), 68, Puget Sound Stevedoring Co. v. State Tax Commission

Docket Nº:No. 68
Citation:302 U.S. 90, 58 S.Ct. 72, 82 L.Ed. 68
Party Name:Puget Sound Stevedoring Co. v. State Tax Commission
Case Date:November 08, 1937
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 90

302 U.S. 90 (1937)

58 S.Ct. 72, 82 L.Ed. 68

Puget Sound Stevedoring Co.


State Tax Commission

No. 68

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 8, 1937

Argued October 13, 14, 1937



1. The business of a stevedoring corporation, acting as an independent contractor, insofar as it consists of the unloading or discharge of cargoes of vessels engaged in interstate or foreign commerce by longshoremen subject to its own direction and control, is interstate or foreign commerce, and the privilege of doing it cannot be taxed by the State. P. 92.

2. Insofar as the business of a stevedoring corporation consists of supplying longshoremen to shipowners or masters without directing or controlling the work of loading or unloading, it is not interstate or foreign commerce, but rather a local business, and subject, like such business generally, to taxation by the State. P. 94.

189 Wash. 131, 63 P.2d 532, modified.

Appeal from a judgment affirming the dismissal of a suit to enjoin collection of a tax on the business of the appellant measured by gross receipts.

Page 91

CARDOZO, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE CARDOZO delivered the opinion of the Court.

A tax laid upon the business of a stevedoring company, the amount to be measured by a percentage of the gross receipts, has been sustained against the protest of the taxpayer that an unlawful burden is imposed thereby upon interstate and foreign commerce. We are to determine whether the tax is valid, either altogether or in part.

A statute of the state of Washington provides that, for the privilege of engaging in business activities within the state, a tax [58 S.Ct. 73] shall be payable by persons so engaged, payment to be made according to a designated measure. As to certain forms of business -- as, for example, manufacturing and sales at retail or wholesale -- the measure is a specially prescribed percentage of the value of the products or the gross receipts of sales. As to all other forms of business, there is a general provision that the tax shall be equal to the gross income of the business multiplied by the rate of one-half of one percent. Washington Laws 1935, c. 180. This general provision is broad enough to cover the business of a stevedore.

Appellant, the Puget Sound Stevedoring Company, is a Washington corporation. It is engaged in the general stevedoring business at Seattle and at other ports on Puget Sound. At times, it contracts with a...

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