City of St. Louis v. Wiggins Ferry Co.

Citation40 Mo. 580
PartiesCITY OF ST. LOUIS, Appellant, v. WIGGINS FERRY COMPANY, Respondent.
Decision Date31 March 1867
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri

Appeal from St. Louis Circuit Court.

C. C. Simmons, for appellant.

The City of St. Louis has authority under its charter to levy and collect, within the city, taxes not exceeding one per centum on all property made taxable by law for State purposes. Shares of stock and all other interests held in steamboats, keel boats, wharf boats, and all other vessels, are made taxable by law for State purposes--Sess. Acts 1860-61, p. 62.

The defendant not being a corporation created by the laws of this State, is to be regarded as a non-resident, and its property in the possession of, or managed, regulated and controlled by its agents, residents of this State, is liable to taxation here--International Life Ass. Soc. v. Comm'rs of Taxes, 28 Barb. 318; Hoyt vs. Comm'rs of Taxes, 9 E. D. Smith, 224.

I. The boats used by the defendant are liable, and ought to be taxed by the State and municipal authorities of this State. 1. Because they are registered at the port of St. Louis, which thus becomes their home port and renders them liable to be taxed there. Hays v. Pacific Mail Steamship Co., 17 How. 596; City of New Albany v. Meekin, 3 Ind. 481; Wilkey v. City of Pekin, 19 Ills. 160. 2. Because the company pays taxes in Illinois, it is not for that reason exempt from liability to be taxed in this State also--Catlin v. Hall, 21 Vt. 152.

II. The boats belonging to the defendant are subject to taxation under our laws, because all the officers of the company are residents of this State, and its stock is also mostly owned here. In everything but in name and that which is merely imaginary the defendant is a home company, and ought so to be considered. It has a superintendent and other employees residing in Illinois; it holds real and personal property, has an office, and transacts business, there; but the actual control and management of its affairs, and the real possession of all its property, is in fact and in law vested in the president, directors and other officers of the company, who are its trustees and agents, and who are all citizens of this State and reside in the city of St. Louis.

E. B. Ewing, for respondent.

I. Upon the facts admitted, the property in controversy is not taxable by the city. The city has authority to impose a tax on such property only as is made “taxable by the laws of the State within the limits of the city”--Ordinances 1866, p. 570. Two things must concur: first, the property must be subject to taxation by the law of the State; and second, such property must have its actual situs within the limits of the city. It is evident the intention of the ordinance was to confine its power of taxation to property actually within the territorial jurisdiction of the city; its terms are too plain to admit of doubt. And that the property was not within the limits of the city in any sense, the facts agreed make most manifest; and that the city never so regarded it appears further from an ordinance, then and still in force, prohibiting the ferry boats from remaining on this side the river longer than ten minutes-- Ordinances 1866, p. 394, § 12, see also § 17; Wilkey v. City of Pekin, 19 Ills. 161.

II. The law of the State, however, under which this assessment was ade, gives no authority, nor by any fair construction of its terms does it attempt to subject the stock or property of a foreign corporation to xation. This law classifies the objects of taxation as they relate to corporations, first, by a provision applying evidently to home corporations in general, making taxable their shares of stock and all property owned by them over and above their capital stock--Acts Adj. Sess. 1863, pp. 65-7, § 1. It also provides that all incomes derived from public stocks, bank stocks, stocks of chartered companies, or other propenty, real or personal, that are not taxed in this State, shall pay a tax, &c.--p. 66, § 1.

There is here a manifest distinction between home and foreign corporations, subjecting the stock, &c., of the former to taxation, and the incomes derived from the stock and property of the latter; such is the obvious construction of the section, and the reasonable interpretation of its anguage. It is only intended, however, to maintain on this point that the Legislature did not go further than this; but it is not conceded that it could go even this far in subjecting property beyond the territorial jurisdiction to taxation.

Section 5, p. 67, says that “all property situated in any other State or Territory, and belonging to any resident of this State, which is personal by the laws of such State, shall be assessed in the county of such resident. This, of course, does not include stocks or other property of forgn corporations, the incomes of which alone the Legislature intended to make taxable; for if it were intended thereby to include stock, &c., of foreign corporations, it would be inconsistent with the clause in regard to incomes derived from stock and property of such corporations.

If, then, the property in controversy is not embraced by the terms of the ordinance as being actually within the limits of the city, the claim of authority to subject it to taxation can only be supported, if at all, by a legal fiction, by which it is transferred from a foreign jurisdiction so as to subject it to the operation of our own laws.

The State has no power to impose a tax upon property whose actual situs is within a foreign jurisdiction. This would seem to result obviously from the familiar principle that the laws of one country have no intrinsic force except within the territorial limits and jurisdiction of that county or State--a principle resulting from the equality and independence of States and an essential attribute of sovereignty, of which the taxing power is an incident. The question, however, in a variety of forms has been the subject of adjudication, and the decision in various States, which are cited below, establish, or rather recognize, these general principles: that all subjects over which the sovereign power of a State extends are objects of taxation; but those over which it does not extend are, on the soundest principles, exempt from taxation--9 E. D. Smith, (N. Y.) 226 et seq.; Hoyt v. Comm'rs of Taxes, 9 Id. (N. Y.) 236; Sto. Const. Law, § 550; Catlin v. Hall, 21 Vt. 152; Finley v. City of Philad., 32 Pa. 381; City of New Albany v. Meekin, 3 Porter, (Ind.) 482; Sangamon & Morgan R. R. Co. v. Morgan Co., 14 Ills, 166; Wills v. Collector, 26 Ills. 300; Johnson v. City of Lexington, 14 B. Mon. 648; McGregor v. McGregor Br. State Bk., 12 Iowa, 79, 529; Commonw. v. Hamilton Manuf'g Co., 12 Allen, not yet reported, referred to in Amer. Law Reg. for May, p. 437, holding that corporations are taxable for their stock in the State, city or town where they are situated, although its stockholders are non-residents.

The fact that the boats are registered in St. Louis is of no importance in the case at bar, where the other facts, admitted so clearly, fix the situs or locality of the property in a foreign jurisdiction. The place of registration is a fact which is necessarily indeterminate as it respects locality of property for purposes of taxation. The act of Congress requires ships and vessels to be registered by the collector of the district, in which shall be comprehended the port to which such ship or vessel shall belong at the time of her registry, which port shall be deemed to be that at, or nearest to which, the owner, if there be but one, or, if more than one, the husband or acting and managing owner of such vessel usually resides--1 Stat. 288, § 3.

The port or place of registration is manifestly of no consequence in determining the situs of a vessel for the purposes of taxation. If this circumstance could fix the locality of the property, all the ferry boats in the State that are registered in the State would be liable to a tax here; or a boat plying between places within the State of Illinois, and wholly within its jurisdiction, would, on the same principle, be taxable in St. Louis, if this were the port nearest to which the owner (although a citizen of Illinois) resided.

All the property of the company within the city pays a tax, and it pays to the city $2,000 every six months upon a ferry license--Ordinances 1866, p. 395.

HOLEMS, Judge, delivered the opinion of the court.

The cause was submitted to the court below upon an agreed state of facts. Judgment was given for the defendant, and the plaintiff brings the case up by appeal.

The substantial question is, whether the ferry boats of this company plying between the city and the Illinois shore, across the river, are subject to taxation here for city purposes as personal property situated within the city limits.

The company was chartered by the Legislature of Illinois, and had a principal office in this city, where the president and other chief officers, including the treasurer, reside, and also another office and place of business on the opposite shore in Illinois, where the superintendent, engineers and other minor officers and agents reside, and where the warehuses, machine shops, and some other property of the company were located, and where the boats were laid up when not in actual use. The wharf boat, permanently located at the city wharf, was admitted to be subject to taxation here. The property was assessed, the tax bills made out, and the...

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