American Smelting and Refining Co. v. Idaho State Tax Commission

Citation592 P.2d 39,99 Idaho 924
Decision Date12 March 1979
Docket NumberNo. 12198,12198
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho

[99 Idaho 927] David H. Leroy, Atty. Gen., Theodore V. Spangler, Jr., Deputy Atty. Gen., Boise, for defendant-appellant.

William D. Dexter, Gen. Counsel, Olympia, Wash., for amicus curiae, Multistate Tax Commission.

Philip E. Peterson, Lewiston, R. Michael Southcombe, of Clemons, Cosho & Humphrey, Boise, George Beatty, of Lee, Toomey & Kent, Washington, D. C., for plaintiff-respondent.

Dale G. Higer, of Eberle, Berlin, Kading, Turnbow & Gillespie, Boise, for amicus curiae U. S. Steel Corp.

BAKES, Justice.

This appeal involves state income tax deficiencies assessed against the plaintiff respondent American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) by the defendant appellant Idaho State Tax Commission (Commission). The principal issues concern the apportionment of ASARCO's income from tangible and intangible property as "business income" under the Idaho version of the Uniform Division of Income for Tax Purposes Act (UDITPA).


In 1965 Idaho adopted with slight modification the Uniform Division of Income for Tax Purposes Act (UDITPA). I.C. § 63-3027. The Act contains rules for determining the portion of a corporation's total income from a multistate business which is attributable to this state and therefore subject to Idaho's income tax. In general, UDITPA divides a multistate corporation's income into two groups: business income and non-business income. Business income is apportioned according to a three factor formula, I.C. § 63-3027(i), while non-business income is allocated to a specific jurisdiction. I.C. § 63-3027(d)-(h). Idaho modified UDITPA to provide that "a parent and subsidiary corporation may, when necessary to accurately reflect income, be considered a single corporation." I.C. § 63-3027(s).

ASARCO is a multistate-multinational corporation primarily engaged in mining, smelting and refining nonferrous metals. ASARCO owns stock in several domestic and foreign corporations, most of which are engaged in similar or related operations. ASARCO's commercial domicile is in New York. Its Idaho activities include the operation of two mines, the Page Lead Zinc Mine and the Galena Silver Mine, and the location of its northwest mining department headquarters in Wallace, Idaho. ASARCO also sells in Idaho small amounts of secondary metals metals reclaimed from scrap metal.

In 1971 the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC) completed a joint audit of ASARCO on behalf of Idaho and five other states. The MTC is the administrative agency of the Multistate Tax Compact, of which Idaho is a member. I.C. § 63-3701. Article VIII of the compact authorizes the MTC to perform interstate audits on behalf of member states. Idaho statutes specifically authorize the Idaho State Tax Commission to participate in such joint audits. I.C. § 63-3707. The constitutionality of the Multistate Tax Compact, including its joint audit provisions, has been upheld. United States Steel Corp. v. Multistate Tax Comm'n, 434 U.S. 452, 98 S.Ct. 799, 54 L.Ed.2d 682 (1978); Kinnear v. Hertz Corp., 86 Wash.2d 407, 545 P.2d 1186 (1976).

The MTC auditor made several significant adjustments in the computation of ASARCO's Idaho tax returns for the years of 1968, 1969 and 1970. These adjustments, which were accepted by the Idaho State Tax Commission, resulted in the tax deficiencies

[99 Idaho 928] at issue in this case. These adjustments may be summarized as follows

The MTC auditor combined or "unitized" with ASARCO, pursuant to I.C. § 63-3027(s), six corporations all wholly owned subsidiaries of ASARCO. 1 Because these corporations were unitized with ASARCO, their incomes were combined with ASARCO's for Idaho tax purposes. However, dividends paid by the six corporations to ASARCO were not considered as income to ASARCO but were viewed by the auditor as intracompany transfers.

The MTC auditor also made significant changes in the computation of ASARCO's "business income," which was subject to apportionment. I.C. § 63-3027(i). These changes are best summarized in terms of the type of income involved.

Dividend Income : From a monetary standpoint, this is the most significant of the disputed items of income. The MTC auditor included as business income dividends paid ASARCO by various corporations, other than the six "unitized" corporations. The dividends from these "non-unitized" corporations totaled $48,310,126.00 in 1968, $66,374,428.00 in 1969, and $61,772,970.00 in 1970. This dividend income represented a substantial portion of ASARCO's total income for the tax years in question. Summarized below are the activities of the principal corporations which paid ASARCO these dividends and their relationship to ASARCO.

1. Southern Peru Copper Corporation: This corporation produces blister copper, a material which is 99% Copper and also contains byproduct material such as gold, silver and florium. ASARCO owns 51.5% Of the stock and the remainder is owned by three other mining companies. Pursuant to a management agreement, ASARCO is entitled to elect a plurality but not a majority of the directors. Southern Peru has its own staff, but ASARCO provides certain technical assistance such as purchasing, traffic and tax preparation services. ASARCO receives a negotiated fee for these services.

Approximately 30% Of Southern Peru's blister copper is sold to European customers through Southern Peru Copper Sales Corporation. The stock ownership in this sales corporation is the same as in Southern Peru. However, it is staffed entirely by ASARCO employees. The European sales are made through the sales corporation in order to preserve Southern Peru's favored federal tax status as a Western Hemisphere Trading Corporation. The remainder of Southern Peru's blister copper is divided among the four stockholders according to their ownership, E. g., ASARCO receives 51.5% Of the remainder. The price for the copper is determined by reference to a quotation in a trade publication, and during the years in question ASARCO's purchases from Southern Peru were substantial. This output contract with Southern Peru is important to ASARCO but is not essential to its smelting business.

2. M.I.M. Holdings, Ltd.: This is a major corporation engaged in the mining, milling, smelting and refining of copper, lead, zinc and silver in Australia and which also operates a lead and zinc refinery in England. Hence, it is involved in virtually the same business as ASARCO. ASARCO owns 52.7% Of the stock, and the rest is widely held. However, ASARCO has no directors or officers in M.I.M. At trial an ASARCO executive explained its failure to elect any directors as follows:

"This company has been very successful in staffing the corporation with Australian people and (they have) been able to run this company by themselves and, therefore, in consequence of the nationalistic feeling which develops in most of such developing countries we have not exercised any right we might have to elect a director to the board of the company."

M.I.M. uses an ASARCO furnace patent, for which it pays a royalty, and occasionally ASARCO provides it some technical services.

[99 Idaho 929] It is not economically feasible to ship ore or concentrates from Australia to the United States for smelting and there is only an insignificant amount of sales between these two corporations. In general, M.I.M. operates independently of ASARCO

3. General Cable and Revere Copper: These two copper fabricators are major customers of ASARCO and ASARCO owned approximately 34% Of the stock in each corporation. The remaining stock was widely held. Revere Copper also uses an ASARCO patent, for which it pays royalties, and both companies utilize ASARCO's stock transfer department, for which they pay a fee. In 1961 the United States Department of Justice filed an antitrust action against ASARCO because of its interest in General Cable and Revere Copper. The action resulted in consent decrees signed in 1967 which prohibited ASARCO from maintaining common officers in these companies, voting its stock, selling these companies copper at prices lower than those quoted their competitors, and acquiring stock in any other copper fabricator. In 1970 ASARCO was compelled to divest itself of its stock in General Cable. Following the divestiture, General Cable continued to be a major customer of ASARCO.

4. Lake Asbestos of Quebec, Ltd.: This company mines and processes asbestos fibers in Canada. Its products are sold throughout the world, and in order to preserve its status as a Western Hemisphere Trading Corporation its sales are made through a conduit corporation, ASARCO International Corporation. Both Lake Asbestos and ASARCO Intl. are wholly owned by ASARCO. Lake Asbestos has its own staff, but ASARCO provides important management services. Lake Asbestos seeks ASARCO's direction and approval on major policy decisions. ASARCO Intl. is staffed entirely by ASARCO and Lake Asbestos employees. The business activities and operations of Lake Asbestos and ASARCO Intl. are in a field unrelated to ASARCO's mining and smelting operations and involve different technology. ASARCO shared no facilities, customers or sales force with these companies and it did not purchase any of their products.

5. ASARCO Mexicana, S.A.: This company mines and smelts lead and copper in Mexico. ASARCO owns 49% Of the stock and the remainder is publicly held by Mexican nationals. At one time ASARCO owned 100% Of the company, but in 1965 was required by Mexican law to divest itself of 51% Of the stock. ASARCO Mexicana does not seek approval from ASARCO concerning major policy decisions, but ASARCO does provide technical services, makes some direct purchases from ASARCO Mexicana, and acts as its agent for sales outside Mexico. ASARCO Mexicana pays ASARCO for those...

To continue reading

Request your trial
19 cases
  • Mobil Oil Corporation v. Commissioner of Taxes of Vermont, 78-1201
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 19, 1980
    ...... Assuming that New York, the State of "commercial domicile," has the authority to ... Olympia, Wash., for the Multistate Tax Commission et al., as amici curiae, by special leave of ... for petroleum reserves to production, refining, transportation, and distribution and sale of ... incorporated in Delaware (Arabian American Oil Co. (ARAMCO)) of which appellant owned 10% of ...207, 585 S.W.2d 18 (1979); American Smelting & Refining Co. v. Idaho Tax Comm'n , 99 Idaho ......
  • Earth Resources Co. of Alaska v. State, Dept. of Revenue, s. 5762
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • February 10, 1983 be separate. A number of state courts have adopted similar tests for a unitary business. See American Smelting & Refining v. Idaho State Tax Comm'n, 99 Idaho 924, 592 P.2d 39, 46 (Idaho 1979); Webb Resources, Inc. v. McCoy, 194 Kan. 758, 401 P.2d 879, 886 (Kan.1965); Square D. Co. v. Ken......
  • Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Lenckos, 52818
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • February 20, 1981
    ...the tax years in question." 271 Or. 517, 529, 533 P.2d 788, 794. See also American Smelting & Refining Co. v. Idaho State Tax Com. (1979), 99 Idaho 924, 592 P.2d 39; Montana Department of Revenue v. American Smelting & Refining Co. (1977), 173 Mont. 316, 567 P.2d The Supreme Court has also ......
  • Asarco Incorporated v. Idaho State Tax Commission, 80-2015
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 29, 1982
    ......10 American Smelting . . Page 315 . & Refining Co. v. Idaho State Tax Comm'n , 99 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT