Acheson v. Johnson

CourtSupreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
Writing for the CourtBefore MURCHIE; FELLOWS
Citation86 A.2d 628,147 Me. 275
Decision Date20 February 1952
PartiesACHESON et al. v. JOHNSON, State Tax Assessor.

Page 628

86 A.2d 628
147 Me. 275
ACHESON et al.
v.
JOHNSON, State Tax Assessor.
Supreme Judicial Court of Maine.
Feb. 20, 1952.

Sanford L. Fogg, Augusta, for appellants.

Boyd L. Bailey, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.

[147 Me. 276] Before MURCHIE, C. J., and THAXTER, FELLOWS, MERRILL, NULTY and WILLIAMSON, JJ.

FELLOWS, Justice.

This is an appeal by James M. Acheson and Mary L. Acheson doing business as Capital City Hotel Co. (Augusta House) from the decision of Ernest H. Johnson, State Tax Assessor declining to abate taxes under the Sales and Use Tax Law. The case comes to the Law Court from the Superior Court for Kennebec County on report with agreed statement of facts.

Page 629

The agreed facts are: James M. Acheson and Mary L. Acheson, doing business as Capital City Hotel Co., on July 1, 1951, and ever since, have operated the Augusta House, a year-round hotel open to the public, in Augusta, Maine. Neither of the appellants makes his home in the hotel. During the month of July, 1951, they purchased from Purinton Bros. Co. fuel dealers in Augusta, 16.82 tons of coal, for use in the hotel, at a price of $15.15 a ton, the total bill for the same being in the amount of $254.82. The Achesons furnished Purinton Bros. Co. a certificate stating that the coal was to be used for cooking or heating for domestic purposes and that its purchase was exempt from the sales and use tax. Such exemption certificates are authorized by the State Tax Assessor for use in certain cases and when taken in good faith relieve the sellor from the duty of collecting a sales tax. The Achesons paid for the coal so purchased but neither they nor any one else has paid to Purinton Bros. Co. or to the State of Maine, any sales or use tax, or any part thereof, on the purchase of coal.

The coal was delivered to the Augusta House and was there used to heat the entire hotel building, including the lobby, dining room, halls, cocktail lounge, kitchen, lavatories, banquet rooms, bedrooms, suites and service rooms. A very small percentage of the coal was used for cooking in the hotel, most of the cooking there being done by electricity, with the exception of steam pressure cookers and coffee makers[147 Me. 277] run by steam from the boilers. The heating and cooking is done for employees, as well as guests of the hotel whether there for one meal, one day, or longer. Some guests live in the hotel the year round, while others are there for but one mean or longer.

Pursuant to claimed authority granted by Section 20 of the Sales and Use Tax Law, Laws 1951, c. 250, § 20, Ernest H. Johnson, in his capacity of State Tax Assessor, on July 27, 1951 made the following ruling: 'Fuel consumed in heating those portions of any hotel which are customarily occupied for a period of four (4) months or longer by individuals will be considered as used for domestic purposes. Fuel consumed in heating other portions of hotels, including rooms normally occupied by persons remaining for less than four (4) months at a time, will not be considered as used for domestic purposes. That portion of the fuel, other than gas and electricity, purchased by a hotel and used for domestic purposes, as noted above, would not be subject to the sales tax.'

Pursuant to said ruling of July 27, 1951, the State Tax Assessor has determined that 15% of the amount of the coal used in July 1951, was exempt from the sales or use tax, as having been used for, or intended for, heating for domestic purposes, and that the remaining 85% was subject to use tax at the rate of 2%, in a total amount of $4.33. On August 28, 1951, the State Tax Assessor assessed a use tax against the appellants in the sum of $4.33, served them with notice thereof and made demand upon them for payment.

The above percentages were arrived at from figures furnished to the State Tax Assessor by the Augusta House, based on the calendar year 1950 which was used as the base period. The correctness of the percentages arrived at by applying the State Tax Assessor's ruling to the figures is not in dispute. But the appellants contend that the ruling [147 Me. 278] itself, and the tax assessed pursuant thereto, is erroneous, unreasonable and not consistent with Section 10, sub-section VII-A of Chapter 250, P.L. 1951, in that coal, oil, wood and other fuels (except gas and electricity) used for cooking or heating for domestic purposes within the meaning of said sub-section VII-A, a includes all such fuel used for such purposes in a hotel and that the exemption is not limited to rooms actually occupied by guests, nor to such rooms only as are occupied by guests who remain for four consecutive months or longer but that it includes fuel used to heat other portions of the hotel maintained for the comfort and convenience of the guests, as well as used for cooking in the hotel.

The State Tax Assessor contends, on the other hand, that the term 'domestic purposes,' as used in said sub-section VII-A, is to be construed narrowly and limits time application of said sub-section to fuel used

Page 630

to heat the 'domus,' or living quarters of employees, or such space as is specifically billed to guests making their home in the hotel for four consecutive months or longer.

On August 29, 1951, the said James M. Acheson and Mary L. Acheson, pursuant to Section 29 of said Chapter 250, P.L. 1951, filed a petition with the State Tax Assessor for a reconsideration of his assessment of August 28, 1951, requesting that said tax, assessed as aforesaid, be abated. Said petition did not request oral hearing.

On August 29, 1951, the State Tax Assessor considered said petition for consideration and abatement of tax and rendered his decision thereon, refusing to abate said tax, and on that same day he notified petitioners of his decision on said petition.

On August 30, 1951, the said James M. Acheson and Mary L. Acheson, pursuant to Section 30 of said Sales and Use Tax Law, appealed to the Kennebec Superior Court, October [147 Me. 279] Term, 1951, said appeal having been served on the State Tax Assessor and entered in Court on that same day, to wit, August 30, 1951.

The sole issue on said appeal is whether the exemption contained in Section 10, sub-section VII-A of Chapter 250, P.L. 1951 is limited, as it applies to hotels, to that portion of the fuel used for heating the living quarters of guests who occupy such quarters for four consecutive months or longer, as the State Tax Assessor has ruled, or whether said exemption applies also to fuel used for heating the rooms of all guests, irrespective of the length of their stay in the hotel, as well as other portions of the hotel maintained for the comfort...

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11 practice notes
  • Vanasse v. Labrecque
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • 21 Diciembre 1977
    ...in order to ascertain legislative intent which must control. In Re McLay, 133 Me. 175, 177, 175 A. 348 (1934); Acheson v. Johnson, 147 Me. 275, 280, 86 A.2d 628 (1952). Words which have acquired a meaning through judicial definition are construed in accordance therewith. Hathorn v. Robinson......
  • Anderson v. Neal
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • 30 Abril 1981
    ...words which have acquired a meaning through judicial definition are to be construed in accordance therewith. See Acheson v. Johnson, 147 Me. 275, 86 A.2d 628 (1952). The Legislature must be considered as having entertained a consistent design and policy when it started the running of the se......
  • Hutchins v. Libby
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • 30 Diciembre 1953
    ...It is fundamental that in construing a statute the intention of the legislature should be ascertained and carried out. Acheson v. Johnson, 147 Me. 275, 86 A.2d 628. The history of a statute may help to indicate intent. Cushing v. Inhabitants of Town of Bluehill, 148 Me. 243, 92 A.2d 330; In......
  • Mellott v. Sullivan Ford Sales
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • 14 Diciembre 1967
    ...language, must prevail irrespective of any rule of interpretation calling for strict construction. Acheson et al. v. Johnson, 1952, 147 Me. 275 at page 281, 86 A.2d It is only when the purpose is not clearly expressed that we have the right to use the usual outside aids or rules of construc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 cases
  • Vanasse v. Labrecque
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • 21 Diciembre 1977
    ...in order to ascertain legislative intent which must control. In Re McLay, 133 Me. 175, 177, 175 A. 348 (1934); Acheson v. Johnson, 147 Me. 275, 280, 86 A.2d 628 (1952). Words which have acquired a meaning through judicial definition are construed in accordance therewith. Hathorn v. Robinson......
  • Anderson v. Neal
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • 30 Abril 1981
    ...words which have acquired a meaning through judicial definition are to be construed in accordance therewith. See Acheson v. Johnson, 147 Me. 275, 86 A.2d 628 (1952). The Legislature must be considered as having entertained a consistent design and policy when it started the running of the se......
  • Hutchins v. Libby
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • 30 Diciembre 1953
    ...It is fundamental that in construing a statute the intention of the legislature should be ascertained and carried out. Acheson v. Johnson, 147 Me. 275, 86 A.2d 628. The history of a statute may help to indicate intent. Cushing v. Inhabitants of Town of Bluehill, 148 Me. 243, 92 A.2d 330; In......
  • Mellott v. Sullivan Ford Sales
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • 14 Diciembre 1967
    ...language, must prevail irrespective of any rule of interpretation calling for strict construction. Acheson et al. v. Johnson, 1952, 147 Me. 275 at page 281, 86 A.2d It is only when the purpose is not clearly expressed that we have the right to use the usual outside aids or rules of construc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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