Mills v. Query, (No. 10893.)

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtMARION, J
Citation115 S.E. 202
PartiesSANTEE MILLS et al. v. QUERY et al., State Tax Commission.
Docket Number(No. 10893.)
Decision Date17 June 1922

115 S.E. 202

SANTEE MILLS et al.
v.
QUERY et al., State Tax Commission.

(No. 10893.)

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

June 17, 1922.


[115 S.E. 203]

ject to the federal income tax to pay to the state as tax on income a sum equal to one-third of the federal income tax, nonresidents to pay the tax upon their separable net income from property owned or from business operations within the state on the same basis as resident taxpayers, held not unconstitutional as necessarily working discrimination between residents and nonresidents, as amounting to a burden upon interstate commerce, us abridging the privileges and immunities of nonresident citizens, as denying equal protection of the laws, nor as depriving persons or corporations taxed of due process of law.

Action brought in the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court by Santee Mills, a corporation, and others, to enjoin W. G. Query, chairman, and others, constituting the South Carolina Tax Commission. Temporary injunction dissolved, prayer for permanent injunction denied, and complaint dismissed.

Elliott & McLain. of Columbia, for plaintiffs.

S. M. Wolfe, Atty. Gen., and J. Fraser Lyon, of Columbia, for defendants.

MARION, J. Plaintiffs seek by action brought in the original jurisdiction of this court to enjoin defendants, as members of the South Carolina Tax Commission, from enforcing the provisions of an act entitled "An act to raise revenue for the support of the state government by the levy and collection of a tax upon income, " approved March 13, 1922. The complaint avers that the Santee Mills is a domestic corporation, owning manufacturing plants and doing business in this state; that the other plaintiffs are foreign corporations, owning and operating manufacturing plants in this state, but dependent in large measure upon business operations in other states, involving the carrying on of interstate commerce, for their corporate incomes; and that the said act, which will be referred to herein as "the act" or the "state act, " purporting to levy a tax upon their corporate incomes, is null and void, in that it coutravenes various provisions of the state and federal Constitutions. The answer of the defendants admits so much of the complaint as alleges that plaintiffs are subject to the payment of taxes under the provisions of said act, but denies the legal conclusions of plaintiffs as to the invalidity of the law. The Attorney General of the state, appearing on behalf of the defendants having raised no question as to the right of the plaintiffs jointly to maintain this proceeding for a writ of injunction, it will be assumed for the purpose of this decision that the issue made is properly before the court.

The constitutional objections urged by plaintiffs involve two general propositions: First, that the act is invalid as a whole, in that the General Assembly transcended the constitutional limitations upon its legislative powers (a) by attempting to give the force of statute law to the federal Income Tax Law and certain regulations of the United States government for its enforcement, in adopting said federal law and regulations by a mere reference thereto in the act, (b) by attempting to delegate the legislative powers of the state to the United States Congress and to federal officers, and (c) by attempting to delegate to the State Tax Commission legislative powers in applying the act and in making rules and regulations thereunder. Second, that the application of said act to such of the plaintiffs as are foreign corporations would result in the infringement of their constitutional rights (1) by improperly burdening their intestate business, (2) by subjecting them to a discriminatory tax arbitrarily assessed, (3) and by denying to them due process and the equal protection of the laws. Certain objections which may not be fairly comprehended in the foregoing general propositions will not be adverted to specifically for the reason that in the view taken of the meaning of the act, fairly interpreted, such objections are deemed hypercritical and groundless.

The act is to be construed and interpreted in the light of certain fundamental principles of constitutional law and established rules of constitutional construction. Except in so far as it is limited by the state and federal Constitutions, the taxing power of the state is general and absolute and extends to all persons, property, and business within its jurisdiction or reach. 37 Cyc. 717. Within those limits the necessity, utility, and expediency of legislation are for the determination of the Legislature alone. Every presumption must be indulged in favor of the constitutionality of an act of the Legislature, and to justify a court in pronouncing legislation unconstitutional, the case must be so clear as to be free from doubt and the conflict of the statute with the Constitution must be irreconcilable. Ordinarily, to doubt the constitutionality of the law is to resolve the doubt in favor of its validity, or, as was stated by Mr. Justice Jones in the case of State v. Hammond, 66 S. C. 227, 44 S. E. 797:

"The court should not declare a statute unconstitutional unless the invalidity is manifest bevond a reasonable doubt." Pelzer v. Campbell, 15 S. C. 581, 40 Am. Rep. 705; Grocery Co. v. Burnett, 61 S. C. 214, 39 S. E. 381, 58 L. R. A. 687; State v. Hammond, supra: Greenville v. Foster, 101 S. C. 318, 85 S. E. 769; Commissioners v. Buckley, 82 S. C. 357, 64 S. E. 163; Thomas v. Railway, etc., Co., 100 S. C. 481. 85 S. E. 50; Ware Shoals Mfg. Co. v. Jones, Comptroller. 78 S. C. 211, 58 S. E. 811.

It is true that the act bears upon its face evidences of lack of careful workmanship and of cohesive construction. It is also unfortunately true that under the legislative methods of enacting laws prevailing in this and in most of the American states, the more im-

[115 S.E. 204]

portant the legislation sought to be passed the more difficult it is generally to secure a result that is free from ambiguity and inconsistency. Such legislation in the final outcome is usually a mosaic of more or less incongruous elements contributed by many men of many minds. And so "it has been said that the eyes of courts are never limited to the mere letter of a law, but that they may look behind the letter to determine its true purpose and effect." 6 R. C. L. p. 81. Such considerations are properly borne in mind in subjecting this act to the primary test of legislative intent. So subjected, we think the provisions of the act against which plaintiffs' contentions are directed are fairly and legitimately susceptible of the following construction and interpretation: First, all persons, firms, partnerships, corporations, and trustees for persons or estates, liable to the payment of a federal income tax, are required to pay to the state as income a sum equal to 33 1/3 per cent. of the amount required to be paid as income tax to the United States government. Second, for the purpose of graduating such tax, of determining the amount thereof, and of prescribing the method, means, and manner of its assessment and collection, the provisions of the act of Congress of the United States approved November 23, 1921 (42 Stat. 227), relating to levy, assessment, and collection of income tax by the United States government, and...

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59 practice notes
  • Clarke v. South Carolina Pub. Serv. Auth., No. 14137.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • September 10, 1935
    ...v. Richardson, 149 S. C. 52, 146 S. E. 686; Scroggie v. Scarborough, 162 S. C. 218, 160 S. E. 596; Santee Mills v. Query, 122 S. C. 158, 115 S. E. 202; Duke Power Company v. Bell, 156 S. C. 299, 152 S. E. 865; Fripp v. Coburn, 101 S. C. 312, 85 S. E. 774; Cathcart v. Columbia, 170 S. C. 362......
  • State Ex Rel. Richards v. Moorer, (No. 12746.)
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • October 12, 1929
    ...v. Cantwell, 129 S. C. 171, 123 S. E. 653; Battle v. Willcox, 128 S. C. 500, 122 S. E. 516; San-tee Mills v. Query, 122 S. C. 158, 115 S. E. 202; Powell v. Hargrove, 136 S. C. 345, 134 S. E. 380." The following clear statement of this principle is found in 6 R. C. L. p. 75: "To ju......
  • Kellems v. Brown
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 27, 1972
    ...Ga. 370, 153 S.E. 58; Cheney v. St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co., 239 Ark. 870, 872, 394 S.W.2d 731; Santee Mills v. Query, 122 S.C. 158, 115 S.E. 202; State ex rel. Kirschner v. Urguhart, 50 Wash.2d 131, 310 P.2d 261; Dawson v. Hamilton, 314 S.W.2d 532 (ky.); Opinion of the Justices, 239 Mas......
  • Wingfield v. South Carolina Tax Comm'n, (No. 12499.)
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • September 25, 1928
    ...Poulnot v. Cantwell, 129 S. C. 171, 123 S. E. 653; Battle v. Willcox, 128 S. C. 500, 122 S. E. 516; Santee Mills v. Query, 122 S. C. 158, 115 S. E. 202; Powell v. Hargrove, 136 S. C. 345, 134 S. E. 3S0. We find the following clear statement of this principle In 6 R. C. L at page 75: "T......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
59 cases
  • Clarke v. South Carolina Pub. Serv. Auth., No. 14137.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • September 10, 1935
    ...v. Richardson, 149 S. C. 52, 146 S. E. 686; Scroggie v. Scarborough, 162 S. C. 218, 160 S. E. 596; Santee Mills v. Query, 122 S. C. 158, 115 S. E. 202; Duke Power Company v. Bell, 156 S. C. 299, 152 S. E. 865; Fripp v. Coburn, 101 S. C. 312, 85 S. E. 774; Cathcart v. Columbia, 170 S. C. 362......
  • State Ex Rel. Richards v. Moorer, (No. 12746.)
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • October 12, 1929
    ...v. Cantwell, 129 S. C. 171, 123 S. E. 653; Battle v. Willcox, 128 S. C. 500, 122 S. E. 516; San-tee Mills v. Query, 122 S. C. 158, 115 S. E. 202; Powell v. Hargrove, 136 S. C. 345, 134 S. E. 380." The following clear statement of this principle is found in 6 R. C. L. p. 75: "To ju......
  • Kellems v. Brown
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • July 27, 1972
    ...Ga. 370, 153 S.E. 58; Cheney v. St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co., 239 Ark. 870, 872, 394 S.W.2d 731; Santee Mills v. Query, 122 S.C. 158, 115 S.E. 202; State ex rel. Kirschner v. Urguhart, 50 Wash.2d 131, 310 P.2d 261; Dawson v. Hamilton, 314 S.W.2d 532 (ky.); Opinion of the Justices, 239 Mas......
  • Wingfield v. South Carolina Tax Comm'n, (No. 12499.)
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • September 25, 1928
    ...Poulnot v. Cantwell, 129 S. C. 171, 123 S. E. 653; Battle v. Willcox, 128 S. C. 500, 122 S. E. 516; Santee Mills v. Query, 122 S. C. 158, 115 S. E. 202; Powell v. Hargrove, 136 S. C. 345, 134 S. E. 3S0. We find the following clear statement of this principle In 6 R. C. L at page 75: "T......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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