Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Department of Revenue

Decision Date26 November 1963
Docket NumberNo. 38091,38091
Citation194 N.E.2d 257,29 Ill.2d 564
PartiesCATERPILLAR TRACTOR CO., Appellee, v. The DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, Appellant.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

William G. Clark, Atty. Gen., Springfield (William C. Wines, Raymond S. Sarnow, A. Zola Groves, Thomas G. Lyons, Edward A. Berman, and Richard A. Michael, Asst. Attys. Gen., of counsel), for appellant.

McDermott, Will & Emery, Chicago (Hamilton Smith, Chicago, of counsel), for appellee.

UNDERWOOD, Justice.

The Department of Revenue of the State of Illinois taxed Caterpillar Tractor Company in four separate transactions under the Illinois Use Tax Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1961, chap. 120, par. 439.1 et seq.). Caterpillar obtained an injunction setting aside the tax money in a protest fund pending the outcome of this litigation. Caterpillar then filed a claim for credit with the Department of Revenue, and, after denial of its claim, filed an administrative review action in the circuit court of Cook County which cause was later transferred to Tazewell County. The Circuit court of Tazewell County reversed the order of the defendant Department of Revenue and found each supplier was engaged in a service occupation. The Department has appealed directly to this court because the public revenue is involved.

The hearing before the Department of Revenue was had upon an agreed stipulation of facts detailing the four transactions in question. Since the Department's findings were based upon the stipulated facts and since the plaintiff brings these proceedings under the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev.Stat.1961, chap. 110, par. 264 et seq.), the trial court was reviewing the Department's conclusions of law rather than its finding of fact. Since the facts are not in dispute their legal effect becomes a matter of law reviewable by this court. Ill.Rev.Stat.1961, chap. 110, par. 274; Wallace v. Annunzio, 411 Ill. 172, 103 N.E.2d 467; Kensington Steel Corp. v. Industrial Comm., 385, ill. 504, 509, 53 N.E.2d 395.

It was stipulated that the four transactions sought to be taxed by appellant, under the Use Tax Act, involved purchases by Caterpillar in 1957 and 1959 of a flat-top conveyor from Mechanical Handling Systems, Inc. of Detroit, Michigan (herein referred to as 'Mechanical Handling'), a special three-position line index machine from Snyder Corp. of Detroit, Michigan, (herein referred to as 'Snyder'), a scribe and mill fixture from Dearborn Tool and Die Company of Dearborn, Michigan, (herein referred to as 'Dearborn'), and certain production pattern equipment from Annex Pattern Company of Detroit, Michigan, (herein referred to as 'Annex'). Each of these purchases was made prior to the adoption of the Service Use Tax Act which became effective July 10, 1961. (Ill.Rev.Stat.1961, chap. 120, par. 439.31 et seq.). Appellant claims each of these transactions to be taxable under the provisions of Rule 3 of the Retailers' Occupation Tax Rules and Use Tax Rule 11, both of the Department of Revenue. Rule 3 which covers the sellers of machinery, tools and the like provides:

'1. When liable for tax. Sellers of machinery, tools, dies, jigs, patterns, gauges and the like to users or consumers incur retailers' occupation tax liability except as specified in paragraph 2 hereof. This is true whether the seller installs such tangible personal property for the purchaser or not. (For information concerning the taxability of receipts from installation charges, see paragraph 4, g, of Article 3 of the retailers' occupation tax Rules and Regulations.) The seller is not exempt under paragraph 2 of this rule merely because he produces the tangible personal property, nor because he does not carry the tangible personal property in stock and so produces it only upon receipt of an order therefor, nor because he alters a more or less standard type of tangible personal property to meet the particular needs of the purchaser. (For information concerning repair transactions, see Rule No. 10 of the retailers' occupation tax Rules and Regulations.)

'2. When not liable for tax. In a case in which the purchaser employs the seller primarily for his engineering or other scientific skill to design, develop, construct and produce a special machine, tool, die, jig, pattern, guage or other similar items on special order for and to meet the particular needs of the purchaser, and in such a way that the item, when so produced, has use or value (other than salvage value) only to the purchaser and has use or value only for the specific purpose for which such item is produced by the seller for the purchaser, the seller is engaged primarily in a service occupation rather than in the business of selling tangible personal property and does not incur retailers' occupation tax liability.'

It is conceded by the parties that section 3 of the Use Tax Act (chap. 120, par. 439.3) is applicable here insofar as it provides: 'If the seller of tangible personal property for use would not be taxable under the Retailers' Occupation Tax Act despite all elements of the sale occurring in Illinois, then the tax imposed by this Act shall not apply to the use of such tangible personal property in this State.'

In considering these questions, the following rule is applicable: 'Taxing laws are to be strictly construed and they are not to be extended beyond the clear import of the language used. If there is any doubt in their application they will be construed most strongly against the government and in favor of the taxpayer.' Central Television Service, Inc. v. Isaacs, 27 Ill.2d 420, 429, 189 N.E.2d 333, 337, and cases there cited.

It was stipulated that the pattern equipment sold by Annex for $25,650 was used by Caterpillar in its own foundry to produce fly-wheel housings for its tractors. The pattern equipment was wholly designed by Caterpillar, and Annex constructed and produced this equipment on special order for, and to meet the particular needs of, Caterpillar, as reflected by its prints, and in such a way that the pattern equipment, when so produced, had use or value (other than salvage value) only to Caterpillar and only for the specific purpose for which the pattern equipment was produced by Annex for Caterpillar.

It was further stipulated that the scribe and mill fixture purchased from Dearborn for $10,128 was intended to perform an operation in connection with the production of a power control clutch housing, a component of the Caterpillar tractor unlike the clutch housing produced by other manufacturers. The clutch housing itself is cast by a foundry which is one of Caterpillar's suppliers and the operation performed by the scribe and mill fixture is the last one performed on the casting at the foundry. Caterpillar furnished Dearborn one assembly drawing and 20 additional drawings showing details of the individual components of the fixture which it wanted Dearborn to build. These drawings were modified by Dearborn's engineers, and Dearborn constructed and produced a special fixture on special order for and to meet the particular needs of Caterpillar as shown on its drawings as modified by Dearborn's engineers, and in such a way that the fixture, when so produced, had use or value (other than salvage value) only to Caterpillar and only...

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    ...the facts in this case are undisputed, whether the property is exempt is a question of law. (Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Department of Revenue (1963), 29 Ill.2d 564, 566, 194 N.E.2d 257, 258; Lutheran Child & Family Services v. Department of Revenue (1987), 160 Ill.App.3d 420, 423, 112 Ill.D......
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    ...Revenue, 147 Ill.2d 484, 491, 168 Ill.Dec. 841, 590 N.E.2d 478 (1992) (and cases cited therein); Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Department of Revenue, 29 Ill.2d 564, 565-66, 194 N.E.2d 257 (1963)) which we review de novo. City of Belvidere, 181 Ill.2d at 205, 229 Ill.Dec. 522, 692 N.E.2d 295 (a......
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    ...Revenue, 147 Ill.2d 484, 491, 168 Ill.Dec. 841, 590 N.E.2d 478 (1992) (and cases cited therein); Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Department of Revenue, 29 Ill.2d 564, 565-66, 194 N.E.2d 257 (1963). We review questions of law de novo. City of Belvidere, 181 Ill.2d at 205, 229 Ill.Dec. 522, 692 N.......
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