Frank Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, No. 140

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMcReynolds
Citation60 L.Ed. 493,36 S.Ct. 236,240 U.S. 1
Decision Date24 January 1916
Docket NumberNo. 140
PartiesFRANK R. BRUSHABER, Appt., v. UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY

240 U.S. 1
36 S.Ct. 236
60 L.Ed. 493
FRANK R. BRUSHABER, Appt.,

v.

UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY.

No. 140.
Argued October 14 and 15, 1915.
Decided January 24, 1916.

Page 2

Messrs. Julien T. Davies, Brainard Tolles, Garrard Glenn, and Martin A. Schenck for appellant.

Mr. Henry W. Clark for appellee.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 2-4 intentionally omitted]

Page 5

[Argument of Counsel from pages 3-5 intentionally omitted]

Solicitor General Davis, Assistant Attorney General Wallace, and Attorney General Gregory for the United States.

[Argument of Counsel from page 7-9 intentionally omitted]

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Mr. Chief Justic

e White delivered the opinion of the court:

As a stockholder of the Union Pacific Railroad Company, the appellant filed his bill to enjoin the corporation from complying with the income tax provisions of the tariff act of October 3, 1913 (§ II., chap. 16, 38 Stat. at L. 166). Because of constitutional questions duly arising the case is here on direct appeal from a decree sustaining a motion to dismiss because no ground for relief was stated.

The right to prevent the corporation from returning and paying the tax was based upon many averments as to the repugnancy of the statute to the Constitution of the United States, of the peculiar relation of the corporation to the stockholders, and their particular interests resulting from many of the administrative provisions of the assailed act, of the confusion, wrong, and multiplicity

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of suits and the absence of all means of redress which would result if the corporation paid the tax and complied with the act in other respects without protest, as it was alleged it was its intention to do. To put out of the way a question of jurisdiction we at once say that in view of these averments and the ruling in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & T. Co. 157 U. S. 429, 39 L. ed. 759, 15 Sup. Ct. Rep. 673, sustaining the right of a stockholder to sue to restrain a corporation under proper averments from voluntarily paying a tax charged to be unconstitutional on the ground that to permit such a suit did not violate the prohibitions of § 3224, Revised Statutes (Comp. Stat. 1913, § 5947), against enjoining the enforcement of taxes, we are of opinion that the contention here made that there was no jurisdiction of the cause, since to entertain it would violate the provisions of the Revised Statutes referred to, is without merit. Before coming to dispose of the case on the merits, however, we observe that the defendant corporation having called the attention of the government to the pendency of the cause and the nature of the controversy and its unwillingness to voluntarily refuse to comply with the act assailed, the United States, as amicus curiae, has at bar been heard both orally and by brief for the purpose of sustaining the decree.

Aside from averments as to citizenship and residence, recitals as to the provisions of the statute, and statements as to the business of the corporation, contained in the first ten paragraphs of the bill, advanced to sustain jurisdiction, the bill alleged twenty-one constitutional objections specified in that number of paragraphs or subdivisions. As all the grounds assert a violation of the Constitution, it follows that, in a wide sense, they all charge a repugnancy of the statute to the 16th Amendment, under the more immediate sanction of which the statute was adopted.

The various propositions are so intermingled as to cause it to be difficult to classify them. We are of opinion, however,

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that the confusion is not inherent, but rather arises from the conclusion that the 16th Amendment provides for a hitherto unknown power of taxation; that is, a power to levy an income tax which, although direct, should not be subject to the regulation of apportionment applicable to all other direct taxes. And the far-reaching effect of this erroneous assumption will be made clear by generalizing the many contentions advanced in argument to support it, as follows: (a) The Amendment authorizes only a particular character of direct tax without apportionment, and therefore if a tax is levied under its assumed authority which does not partake of the characteristics exacted by the Amendment, it is outside of the Amendment, and is void as a direct tax in the general constitutional sense because not apportioned. (b) As the Amendment authorizes a tax only upon incomes 'from whatever source derived,' the exclusion from taxation of some income of designated persons and classes is not authorized, and hence the constitutionality of the law must be tested by the general provisions of the Constitution as to taxation, and thus again the tax is void for want of apportionment. (c) As the right to tax 'incomes from whatever source derived' for which the Amendment provides must be considered as exacting intrinsic uniformity, therefore no tax comes under the authority of the Amendment not conforming to such standard, and hence all the provisions of the assailed statute must once more be tested solely under the general and pre-existing provisions of the Constitution, causing the statute again to be void in the absence of apportionment. (d) As the power conferred by the Amendment is new and prospective, the attempt in the statute to make its provisions retroactively apply is void because, so far as the retroactive period is concerned, it is governed by the pre-existing constitutional requirement as to apportionment.

But it clearly results that the proposition and the contentions

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under it, if acceded to, would cause one provision of the Constitution to destroy another; that is, they would result in bringing the provisions of the Amendment exempting a direct tax from apportionment into irreconcilable conflict with the general requirement that all direct taxes be apportioned. Moreover, the tax authorized by the Amendment, being direct, would not come under the rule of uniformity applicable under the Constitution to other than direct taxes, and thus it would come to pass that the result of the Amendment would be to authorize a particular direct tax not subject either to apportionment or to the rule of geographical uniformity, thus giving power to impose a different tax in one state or states than was levied in another state or states. This result, instead of simplifying the situation and making clear the limitations on the taxing power, which obviously the Amendment must have been intended to accomplish, would create radical and destructive changes in our constitutional system and multiply confusion.

But let us by a demonstration of the error of the fundamental proposition as to the significance of the Amendment dispel the confusion necessarily arising from the arguments deduced from it. Before coming, however, to the text of the Amendment, to the end that its significance may be determined in the light of the previous legislative and judicial history of the subject with which the Amendment is concerned, and with a knowledge of the conditions which presumptively led up to its adoption, and hence of the purpose it was intended to accomplish, we make a brief statement on those subjects.

That the authority conferred upon Congress by § 8 of article 1 'to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises' is exhaustive and embraces every conceivable power of taxation has never been questioned, or, if it has, has been so often authoritatively declared as to render it necessary only to state the doctrine. And it has also never

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been questioned from the foundation, without stopping presently to determine under which of the separate headings the power was properly to be classed, that there was authority given, as the part was included in the whole, to lay and collect income taxes. Again, it has never moreover been questioned that the conceded complete and all-embracing taxing power was subject, so far as they were respectively applicable, to limitations resulting from the requirements of art. 1, § 8, cl. 1, that 'all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States,' and to the limitations of art I., § 2, cl. 3, that 'direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states,' and of art 1, § 9, cl. 4, that 'no capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration hereinbefore directed to be taken.' In fact, the two great subdivisions embracing the complete and perfect delegation of the power to tax and the two correlated limitations as to such power were thus aptly stated by Mr. Chief Justice Fuller in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & T. Co. 157 U. S. supra, at page 557: 'In the matter of taxation, the Constitution recognizes the two great classes of direct and indirect taxes, and lays down two rules by which their imposition must be governed, namely: The rule of apportionment as to direct taxes, and the rule of uniformity as to duties, imposts, and excises.' It is to be observed, however, as long ago pointed out in Veazie Bank v. Fenno, 8 Wall. 533, 541, 19 L. ed. 482, 485, that the requirements of apportionment as to one of the great classes and of uniformity as to the other class were not so much a limitation upon the complete and all-embracing authority to tax, but in their essence were simply regulations concerning the mode in which the plenary power was to be exerted. In the whole history of the government down to the time of the adoption of the 16th Amendment, leaving aside some conjectures expressed of the possibility of a tax lying intermediate between the two great classes and embraced

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by neither, no question has been anywhere made as to the correctness of these propositions. At the very beginning, however, there arose differences of opinion concerning the criteria to be applied in determining in which of the two great subdivisions a tax would fall. Without pausing to state at length the basis of these differences and the...

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747 practice notes
  • Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority, Nos. 403
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 17, 1936
    ...401; Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Company, 157 U.S. 429, 433, 553, 554, 15 S.Ct. 673, 39 L.Ed. 759; Brushaber v. Union Pacific R. Co., 240 U.S. 1, 10, 36 S.Ct. 236, 60 L.Ed. 493, L.R.A. 1917D, 414, Ann.Cas. 1917B, 713); or because of the failure to assert the rights and franchises of th......
  • Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Mgmt. Dist., No. 11–1447.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 25, 2013
    ...becomes “so arbitrary ... that it was not the exertion of taxation but a confiscation of property.” Brushaber v. Union Pacific R. Co., 240 U.S. 1, 24–25, 36 S.Ct. 236, 60 L.Ed. 493 (1916). For present purposes, it suffices to say that despite having long recognized that “the power of taxati......
  • Cameron v. IRS, Civ. No. F 84-37.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • September 25, 1984
    ...constitutionality of income tax laws, enacted pursuant to the sixteenth amendment, has long been established. Brushaber v. Union Pac. R.R., 240 U.S. 1, 36 S.Ct. 236, 60 L.Ed. 493 (1916); United States v. Campbell, 619 F.2d 765, 767 (8th Cir.1980); Crowe v. Commissioner, 396 F.2d 766 (8th Ci......
  • Am. Council of Life Insurers v. Dist. of Columbia Health Benefit Exch. Auth., Civil Action No. 14–cv–1138 BAH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • November 13, 2014
    ...constrain to the conclusion that it was not the exertion of taxation, but a confiscation of property.” Brushaber v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 240 U.S. 1, 24, 36 S.Ct. 236, 60 L.Ed. 493 (1916) ; see also Koontz, 133 S.Ct. at 2600 (“It is beyond dispute that ‘[t]axes and user fees ... are not t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
746 cases
  • Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority, Nos. 403
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 17, 1936
    ...401; Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Company, 157 U.S. 429, 433, 553, 554, 15 S.Ct. 673, 39 L.Ed. 759; Brushaber v. Union Pacific R. Co., 240 U.S. 1, 10, 36 S.Ct. 236, 60 L.Ed. 493, L.R.A. 1917D, 414, Ann.Cas. 1917B, 713); or because of the failure to assert the rights and franchises of th......
  • Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Mgmt. Dist., No. 11–1447.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 25, 2013
    ...becomes “so arbitrary ... that it was not the exertion of taxation but a confiscation of property.” Brushaber v. Union Pacific R. Co., 240 U.S. 1, 24–25, 36 S.Ct. 236, 60 L.Ed. 493 (1916). For present purposes, it suffices to say that despite having long recognized that “the power of taxati......
  • Cameron v. IRS, Civ. No. F 84-37.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • September 25, 1984
    ...constitutionality of income tax laws, enacted pursuant to the sixteenth amendment, has long been established. Brushaber v. Union Pac. R.R., 240 U.S. 1, 36 S.Ct. 236, 60 L.Ed. 493 (1916); United States v. Campbell, 619 F.2d 765, 767 (8th Cir.1980); Crowe v. Commissioner, 396 F.2d 766 (8th Ci......
  • Am. Council of Life Insurers v. Dist. of Columbia Health Benefit Exch. Auth., Civil Action No. 14–cv–1138 BAH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • November 13, 2014
    ...constrain to the conclusion that it was not the exertion of taxation, but a confiscation of property.” Brushaber v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 240 U.S. 1, 24, 36 S.Ct. 236, 60 L.Ed. 493 (1916) ; see also Koontz, 133 S.Ct. at 2600 (“It is beyond dispute that ‘[t]axes and user fees ... are not t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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