370 U.S. 1 (1962), 493, Enochs v. Williams Packing & Navigation Co., Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 493
Citation:370 U.S. 1, 82 S.Ct. 1125, 8 L.Ed.2d 292
Party Name:Enochs v. Williams Packing & Navigation Co., Inc.
Case Date:May 28, 1962
Court:United States Supreme Court

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370 U.S. 1 (1962)

82 S.Ct. 1125, 8 L.Ed.2d 292



Williams Packing & Navigation Co., Inc.

No. 493

United States Supreme Court

May 28, 1962

Argued April 18, 1962




Respondent, which is in the business of providing fishing trawlers to commercial fishermen, sued in a Federal District Court to enjoin the collection of social security and unemployment taxes claimed by petitioner to be past due. Although petitioner adduced evidence in support of his claim that there was an employment relationship, the District Court found that such taxes were not, in fact, payable and that their collection would destroy respondent's business; and it permanently enjoined their collection.

Held: the suit for injunction was barred by § 7421(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, and a judgment sustaining the injunction is reversed. Miller v. Standard Nut Margarine Co., 284 U.S. 498, distinguished. Pp. 1-8.

291 F.2d 402, reversed.

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WARREN, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Fearing that the District Director of Internal Revenue for Mississippi would attempt to collect allegedly past due social security and unemployment taxes for the years 1953, 1954 and 1955, respondent, in late 1957, brought suit in the District Court, maintaining that it was not liable for the exactions and seeking an injunction prohibiting their collection. The District Director, petitioner herein, made no objection to the issuance of a preliminary restraining order, but resisted a permanent injunction, asserting that the provisions of § 7421(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 barred any such injunctive proceeding. That section provides:

Except as provided in sections 6212(a) and (c), and 6213(a), no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court.

The exception for Tax Court proceedings created by §§ 6212(a) and (c) and 6213(a) was not applicable, because that body is without jurisdiction over taxes of the sort here in issue. Nevertheless, on July 14, 1959, the court, relying upon Miller v. Standard Nut Margarine Co., 284 U.S. 498, permanently enjoined collection of the taxes on the [82 S.Ct. 1127] ground that they were not, in fact, payable, and because collection would destroy respondent's business. 176 F.Supp. 168. On June 14, 1961, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed, one judge dissenting. 291 F.2d 402. We granted certiorari to determine whether the case came within the scope of this Court's holding in Nut Margarine, which indicated that § 7421(a) was not, in the "special and extraordinary facts and circumstances"

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of that case,1 intended to apply.2 368 U.S. 937.

Respondent corporation (hereinafter referred to as Williams) is engaged in the business of providing trawlers to fishermen who take shrimp, oysters, and fish off the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts. It is the Government's position that these fishermen are the corporation's employees within the meaning of §§ 1426(d)(2) and 1607(i) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1939, 26 U.S.C. (1952 ed.), 26 U.S.C. §§ 1426(d)(2) 1607(i), and §§ 3121(d)(2) and 3306(i) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. These sections specifically adopt the common law test for ascertaining the existence of the employer-employee relationship. As stated in United States v. Silk, 331 U.S. 704, 716,

degrees of control, opportunities for profit or loss, investment in facilities, permanency of relation and skill required . . . are important for decision [under these statutes].

If, under the involved circumstances of this case, the fishermen were employees, respondent Williams is admittedly liable for social security and unemployment taxes for the years in question.3

The following facts, material to the question of the existence of the employment relationship, were established. Williams provided its boats to captains which it selected; they employed their own crews and could fire them at will, but the relationship between respondent corporation

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and the fishermen was not ordinarily of short duration. The catch was generally sold to Williams, which, in turn, resold it to the DeJean Packing Co., a partnership closely allied to Williams both by reason of integrated operation and substantially identical ownership. The proceeds, after the deduction of expenses, were divided among the captain, the crew, and the boat. Williams received an additional share if it supplied the nets and rigging. It extended credit to the captains and made it possible for them to obtain credit elsewhere, and if a trip was unsuccessful and if the captain or crew members no longer continued to operate a boat, Williams absorbed the loss.

With respect to the existence of a recognized right of control by the employer, as might be expected, the testimony was in conflict. Petitioner introduced evidence to show that Williams could effectively refuse ice to boats, and thus determine whether they would go out, that the boats' times of return were sometimes directed by the respondent corporation, that it could dictate the nature of the catch, and that permission was needed to sell the catch to someone other than respondent. And petitioner pointed out that both respondent and its fishermen had, for other purposes, represented that an employer-employee relationship existed.4 On the other hand, the District [82 S.Ct. 1128] Court here found, and the respondent now asserts, that the corporation was wholly without any right of control.

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Attempting to establish a basis for equitable jurisdiction, the corporation maintains that it will be thrown into bankruptcy if required to pay the entire assessment of $41,568.57. It is undisputed that Williams itself is without available funds in this amount, but the Government suggests that respondent has denuded itself...

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