In re Opinion of the Justices

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Citation270 Mass. 593,170 N.E. 800
PartiesIn re OPINION OF THE JUSTICES.
Decision Date25 February 1930

270 Mass. 593
170 N.E. 800

In re OPINION OF THE JUSTICES.

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

Feb. 25, 1930.


Answers to questions propounded to the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court by resolution of the House of Representatives.

Section 1 of the bill referred to follows:-

Section 1. (a) There shall be assessed, levied and collected, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, from each taxpayer and each taxpayer shall pay for each taxable year a tax of one per cent upon any net business income, as defined in section two, after deducting any credits allowable against net business income as provided in the first three paragraphs of section one (b), and a tax of three per cent upon any net income from intangibles, as defined in section two and computed as hereinafter provided, after deducting any credits allowable against net income from intangibles as provided in section one (c).

(b) In determining the amount of net business income subject to tax there shall be allowed to each individual taxpayer the following credits and exemptions:

(1) In the case of a single person without dependents a personal exemption of fifteen hundred dollars;

(2) In the case of a taxpayer who on the last day of the taxable year is the head of a family, or a married person living with husband or wife, a personal exemption of three thousand dollars. A husband and wife living together shall receive but one personal exemption of three thousand dollars against their aggregate net business income and in case they make separate returns a personal exemption of three thousand dollars may be taken by either or divided between them;

(3) A further exemption of two hundred and fifty dollars against net business income for each person, other than husband and wife, depending upon and receiving his chief support from the taxpayer if such dependent person on the last day of the taxable year is under twenty-one years of age or is incapable of self support because mentally or physically.

(c) The exemptions and credits set forth in subsection (b) shall be applied and allowed in the following order and manner:

(1) Said exemption and credit shall be reduced first by the subtraction of any amounts of income not taxable under this chapter, but required to be returned by the provisions of section twenty-five;

(2) Any balance of such exemption or credit shall be applied next against net business income taxable under this chapter;

(3) Any balance of such exemption or credit shall be applied next against net income from intangibles taxable under this chapter, except that the total exemption and credit applicable against net income from intangibles in no event shall exceed the sum of one thousand dollars if the taxpayer is unmarried with no dependents on the last day of the taxable year, or the sum of fifteen hundred dollars if the taxpayer is married or the head of a family on said last day of the taxable year.

(d) If the total net income of the taxpayer, or of a husband and wife living together, whether taxable or not, required to be returned under the provisions of section twenty-five, exceeds ten thousand dollars, such a taxpayer shall not be entitled to the credits and exemption allowed by subsection (b) of this section, except that such a taxpayer shall be entitled to such credits and exemption, reduced, however, by the amount by which such taxpayer's total net income exceeds ten thousand dollars.



[270 Mass. 594]The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, House of Representatives, February 6, 1930.

Whereas, There is pending before the General Court a bill entitled ‘An Act Imposing a General Tax on Personal Incomes,’ printed as Appendix A in House Document No. 900 of the current year, a copy of which is annexed hereto; and

Whereas, Doubt exists as to the constitutionality of said bill if enacted into law; therefore be it

Ordered, That the opinions of the Honorable the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court be required by the House of Representatives on the following important question of law:

Are the personal exemptions and credits provided in section one of the bill valid under the provisions of the Forty-fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, permitting the General Court to grant reasonable exemptions from income taxes authorized by said amendment, and otherwise constitutional?

Frank E. Bridgman, Clerk.

[270 Mass. 597]To the Honorable the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

The Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court respectfully submit this answer to the question in an order adopted by the House of Representatives on February 6, 1930, and transmitted to them on the following day,

[170 N.E. 802]

copy of which is hereto annexed. The question propounded is in substance whether the personal exemptions and credits provided in section 1 of the bill accompanying and a part of the Report of a Special Commission are valid under the provisions of art. 44 of the Amendments to the Constitution. That accompanying bill is a comprehensive income tax law completely revising and changing the present statutes on that subject. It is stated in that report, page 120, touching the bill: ‘The principle upon which the present income tax bill has proceeded is that of obtaining as close an approximation to a general income tax as is possible while retaining the differentiation between earned income or income received from business, or from property or activities reasonably classified with business, and income received from the use of intangible personal property. The application of the tax upon each class of income is made as general as is possible, omitting only rents and mortgage interest. * * * Because of the fact that persons deriving income from intangibles have as a rule a greater ability to pay than those deriving income from business,’ a smaller exemption is allowed against net income from [270 Mass. 598]intangibles. On page 25 of the report it is said: ‘The Commission believes that personal exemptions should be given only to those who really need them.’ In the light of these statements of general principles followed by the commission the provisions of section 1 of the accompanying bill may be analyzed. It there is provided that each taxpayer shall pay annually a tax of one per cent on net business income and three per cent on net income from intangibles. In ascertaining such net income certain exemptions and credits are to be made. These exemptions and credits against business income are $1,500 to a single person without dependents, $3,000 to the head of a family or a married person living with a husband or wife, both husband and wife being entitled only to a single exemption of that amount, and $250 for each dependent other than husband or wife. These exemptions and credits are to be reduced by the...

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23 practice notes
  • Colgate v. Harvey
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • November 14, 1934
    ...Opinion of the Justices, 84 N. H. 557, 149 A. 321, 327; McPherson v. Fisher, 143 Or. 615, 23 P. (2d) 913; In re Opinion of the Justices, 270 Mass. 593, 170 N. E. 800, 803. It may allow reasonable deductions of business expenditures from business income. In re Opinion of the Justices, 85 N. ......
  • Massachusetts Teachers Ass'n v. Secretary of Com.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • August 4, 1981
    ...proportionality requirement of Part II, c. 1, § 1, art. 4, whatever is rightly made subject to the income tax. Opinion of the Justices, 270 Mass. 593, 599, 170 N.E. 800 (1930). Duffy v. Treasurer & Receiver Gen., 234 Mass. 42, 47, 125 N.E. 135 (1919), appeal dismissed sub nom. Dane v. Burri......
  • Opinion of the Justices
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 19, 1956
    ...for the maintenance and extension of great improvements wholly for the public benefit. In re Opinion [334 Mass. 740] of the Justices, 270 Mass. 593, 599, 170 N.E. 800; Assessors of Quincy v. Cunningham Foundation, 305 Mass. 411, 416-417, 26 N.E.2d 335; Assessors of West Springfield v. Easte......
  • In re Appeal Leo L. Yerian from Haw. Unemployment Relief, No. 2472.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • April 23, 1941
    ...v. Alexander, 4 How. 20 (U. S.). 53.Reed v. Bjornson, 191 Minn. 254, 253 N. W. 102, 108; Opinion of the Justices, 167 Mass. 599,170 N. E. 800, 804; Shaffer v. Carter, 252 U. S. 37. 54.Witherspoon v. Duncan, 4 Wall. 210 (U. S.); Tappan v. Merchants' National Bank, 19 Wall. 490 (U. S.). 55.Ta......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • Colgate v. Harvey
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • November 14, 1934
    ...Opinion of the Justices, 84 N. H. 557, 149 A. 321, 327; McPherson v. Fisher, 143 Or. 615, 23 P. (2d) 913; In re Opinion of the Justices, 270 Mass. 593, 170 N. E. 800, 803. It may allow reasonable deductions of business expenditures from business income. In re Opinion of the Justices, 85 N. ......
  • Massachusetts Teachers Ass'n v. Secretary of Com.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • August 4, 1981
    ...proportionality requirement of Part II, c. 1, § 1, art. 4, whatever is rightly made subject to the income tax. Opinion of the Justices, 270 Mass. 593, 599, 170 N.E. 800 (1930). Duffy v. Treasurer & Receiver Gen., 234 Mass. 42, 47, 125 N.E. 135 (1919), appeal dismissed sub nom. Dane v. Burri......
  • Opinion of the Justices
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 19, 1956
    ...for the maintenance and extension of great improvements wholly for the public benefit. In re Opinion [334 Mass. 740] of the Justices, 270 Mass. 593, 599, 170 N.E. 800; Assessors of Quincy v. Cunningham Foundation, 305 Mass. 411, 416-417, 26 N.E.2d 335; Assessors of West Springfield v. Easte......
  • In re Appeal Leo L. Yerian from Haw. Unemployment Relief, No. 2472.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • April 23, 1941
    ...v. Alexander, 4 How. 20 (U. S.). 53.Reed v. Bjornson, 191 Minn. 254, 253 N. W. 102, 108; Opinion of the Justices, 167 Mass. 599,170 N. E. 800, 804; Shaffer v. Carter, 252 U. S. 37. 54.Witherspoon v. Duncan, 4 Wall. 210 (U. S.); Tappan v. Merchants' National Bank, 19 Wall. 490 (U. S.). 55.Ta......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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