Potomac Electric Power Co. v. Hazen

Decision Date05 April 1937
Docket NumberNo. 6708.,6708.
Citation67 App. DC 161,90 F.2d 406
PartiesPOTOMAC ELECTRIC POWER CO. v. HAZEN et al.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

S. R. Bowen and H. W. Kelly, both of Washington, D. C., for appellant.

Elwood H. Seal, Hinman D. Folsom, and Raymond Sparks, all of Washington, D. C., for appellees.

Before MARTIN, Chief Justice, and ROBB, VAN ORSDEL, GRONER, and STEPHENS, Associate Justices.

ROBB, Associate Justice.

Appeal from a decree in the Supreme Court of the District (now District Court of the United States for the District of Columbia) dismissing appellant's (plaintiff below) bill to set aside and declare null and void an assessment and taxes levied on its gross earnings from the sale of electricity in the State of Maryland, and from rent of land, buildings, and equipment within that State amounting to $45,303.84 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1935.

Paragraph 5 of section 6 of the Act of July 1, 1902 (chapter 1352, 32 Stat. 590, 617, 619), required "all gas, electric lighting, and telephone companies, through their proper officers," to make affidavit to the Board of Personal Tax Appraisers of the District of "the amount of its or their gross earnings for the preceding year," and to pay to the collector of taxes of the District "per annum on such gross earnings as follows: * * * each gas company, five per centum; each electric lighting, and telephone company, four per centum. And in addition thereto the real estate owned by each * * * gas, electric lighting and telephone company in the District" to be taxed as other real estate in the District; "Provided, That street railroad companies shall continue to pay the four per centum per annum on their gross receipts and other taxes as provided by existing law."

Paragraph 5 has remained unchanged, except as amended by the Act of April 28, 1904 (chapter 1815, 33 Stat. 563, 564), providing "that that part of the proviso in paragraph five, section six, relating to street railroads `shall be construed to mean that all street railroad companies shall pay four per centum per annum on their gross receipts within the District of Columbia and other taxes as provided by existing law.'" Section 760, tit. 20, D.C.Code 1929.

On July 31, 1934, appellant in its affidavit to the Board of Personal Tax Appraisers omitted, as theretofore, gross earnings from operations outside of the District, contending that the act of 1902 providing for the imposition of a gross earnings tax on electric lighting companies is local in character and intended to have local operation only; that if the act should be construed to have more than local scope it would be unconstitutional — an attempt to regulate a matter of national concern in a law passed solely for and limited to the District of Columbia.

The appellees insist that the tax is a franchise tax, measured by gross earnings, and not a tax upon gross earnings. They concede, as of course they must, that a tax on gross earnings derived from interstate commerce is a burden upon that commerce and repugnant to the commerce clause. United States Glue Co. v. Oak Creek, 247 U.S. 321, 38 S.Ct. 499, 62 L.Ed. 1135, Ann.Cas.1918E, 748; Matson Nav. Co. v. State Board, 297 U.S. 441, 56 S.Ct. 553, 80 L.Ed. 791. In the Glue Co. Case the court said (at page 326 of 247 U.S., 38 S.Ct. 499, 500, 62 L.Ed. 1135, Ann.Cas. 1918E, 748): "It is settled that a state may not directly burden interstate commerce, either by taxation or otherwise. But a tax that only indirectly affects the profits or returns from such commerce is not within the rule." In Schwab v. Richardson, 263 U.S. 88, 44 S.Ct. 60, 62, 68 L.Ed. 183, it was contended that a tax assessment was an attempt to regulate interstate and foreign commerce...

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10 cases
  • Neild v. District of Columbia
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • 15 Enero 1940
    ...the states,15 it constitutes no bar to the action of Congress in any event.16 If the dictum to the contrary in Potomac Electric Power Co. v. Hazen, 67 App.D.C. 161, 90 F.2d 406, certiorari denied, 302 U.S. 692, 58 S.Ct. 11, 82 L.Ed. 535, was intended to apply to the District of Columbia, we......
  • District Grocery Stores v. District of Columbia, 89870.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • 21 Julio 1938
    ...business, relying upon Baltic Mining Company v. Massachusetts, 231 U. S. 68, 34 S.Ct. 15, 58 L.Ed. 127, and Potomac Electric Power Company v. Hazen, 67 App.D.C. 161, 90 F.2d 406, but the former case has been definitely overruled on this point by the later case of Alpha Portland Cement Compa......
  • Mercury Press v. District of Columbia
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit
    • 20 Diciembre 1948
    ...States, 1904, 194 U. S. 486, 24 S.Ct. 816, 48 L.Ed. 1087. 8 Neild v. District of Columbia, supra note 5; Potomac Electric Power Co. v. Hazen, 1937, 67 App.D.C. 161, 90 F.2d 406, certiorari denied, 1937, 302 U.S. 692, 58 S.Ct. 11, 82 L.Ed. 535; Potomac Electric Power Co. v. Rudolph, 1928, 58......
  • Stiehler v. PUBLIC SERVICE COM'N
    • United States
    • D.C. Court of Appeals
    • 12 Agosto 1993
    ...sales, including the GRT. "The statute is all-inclusive — covering gross earnings from whatever source." Potomac Electric Power Co. v. Hazen, 67 App.D.C. 161, 163, 90 F.2d 406, 408, cert. denied, 302 U.S. 692, 58 S.Ct. 11, 82 L.Ed. 535 (1937); see also Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Rouillar......
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