Safe Deposit Trust Co of Baltimore, Md v. Commonwealth of Virginia, No. 20

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMcREYNOLDS
Citation280 U.S. 83,74 L.Ed. 180,50 S.Ct. 59,67 A.L.R. 386
PartiesSAFE DEPOSIT & TRUST CO. OF BALTIMORE, MD., v. COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
Docket NumberNo. 20
Decision Date24 October 1929

280 U.S. 83
50 S.Ct. 59
74 L.Ed. 180
SAFE DEPOSIT & TRUST CO. OF BALTIMORE, MD.,

v.

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA.

No. 20.
Argued Oct. 24, 1929.
Dicided Nov. 25, 1929.

Page 84

Messrs. Littleton M. Wickham and Joseph M. Hurt, Jr., both of Richmond, Va., for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 84-86 intentionally omitted]

Page 87

Mr. Henry R. Miller, Jr., of Richmond, Va., for Commonwealth of virginia.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 87-89 intentionally omitted]

Page 89

Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This cause is properly here upon appeal. The petition for certiorari is therefore denied. May 4, 1920, Lucius J. Kellam, then domiciled and residing in Accomac county, Va., transferred and delivered to the Safe Deposit & Trust Company of Baltimore, Md., stocks and bonds of sundry corporations valued at $50,000, with power to change the investments, upon the following terms:

'* * * To collect the income arising therefrom and after paying such taxes as may be chargeable thereon and its 5% commissions on the gross income, to accumulate the net income for the benefit of the two sons of myself, that is to say, Lucius J. Kellam, Jr., who attained the age of eight years on September 25, 1919, and Emerson Polk Kellam, who attained the age of five years on February 5, 1920, and when the said Lucius J. Kellam, Jr., arrives at twenty-five years of age, to deliver to him one-half of the principal of the estate hereby conveyed and one-half of the said accumulations of income-the other half of the

Page 90

said principal and accumulations of income shall be retained by said Trustee and all income therefrom shall continue to be accumulated until the said Emerson Polk Kellam arrives at twenty-five years of age when he shall become entitled to the said one-half of the principal and accumulations so retained together with all further accumulations thereon. If either of said two sons shall die before receiving his share of said principal and accumulations, then the same shall be paid over and delivered to his children living at his death; and if either shall die before receiving his share without issue, then such share shall be added to the share of the survivor and be held for his use and benefit in the same manner precisely as his original share is held.'

The deed made no provision for the event of death of both sons under 25 without issue. The donor reserved to himself power of revocation, but without exercising it, died in 1920. Administration on his estate was had in Accomac county, Va., and his two sons are domiciled there.

Except as changed by reinvestment, the trust company has continued to hold the original securities in Baltimore, Md., and has paid the taxes regularly demanded by that city and state on account of them.

An assessment for taxation in Accomac county, Va., for the years 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, and 1925 upon the whole corpus of the trust estate was sustained by the court below-the highest state tribunal to which the matter could be submitted. It declared section 2307, Virginia Code (1919), as amended in 1920 (Laws 1920, c. 376) 1922 (Laws 1922, c. 520), and 1923 (Laws Ex. Sess. 1923, c. 104),1

Page 91

applicable, adequate to support the demand, and not in conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment.

Appellant maintains that so interpreted and applied the statute lays a tax upon property wholly beyond the jurisdiction of the state and consequently offends the Fourteenth Amendment.

Manifestly, the securities are subject to taxation in Maryland where they are in the actual possession of the trust company-holder of the legal title. That they are property within Maryland is not questioned. De Ganay v. Lederer, 250 U. S. 376, 382, 39 S. Ct. 524, 63 L. Ed. 1042. Also, nobody within Virginia has present right to their control or possession, or to receive income therefrom, or to cause them to be brought physically within her borders. They have no legal situs for taxation in Virginia unless the legal fiction mobilia sequuntur personam is applicable and controlling. The court below, recognizing this, held the two sons, in conjunction with the administrator of the father's estate-all domiciled in Virginia-really owned the fund

Page 92

and that by reason of the fiction its taxable situs followed them.

We need not make any nice inquiry concerning the ultimate or equitable ownership of the securities or the exact nature of the interest held by the sons. In the disclosed circumstances, we think that is not a matter of controlling importance.

Ordinarily this court recognizes that the fiction of mobilia sequuntur personam may be applied in order to determine the situs of intangible personal property for taxation. Blodgett v. Silberman, 277 U. S. 1, 48 S. Ct. 410, 72 L. Ed. 749. But the general rule must yield to established fact of legal ownership, actual presence and control elsewhere, and ought not to be applied if so to do would result in inescapable and patent injustice whether through double taxation, or otherwise. State Board of Assessors v. Comptoir National d'Escompte, 191 U. S. 388, 404, 24 S. Ct. 109, 48 L. Ed. 232; Buck v. Beach, 206 U. S. 392, 408, 27 S. Ct. 712, 51 L. Ed. 1106, 11 Ann. Cas. 732; Liverpool, etc., Ins. Co. v. Orleans Assessors, 221 U. S. 346, 354, 31 S. Ct. 550, 55 L. Ed. 762, L. R. A. 1915C, 903; Maguire v. Trefry, 253 U. S. 12, 17, 40 S. Ct. 417, 64 L. Ed. 739. Here, where the possessor of the legal title holds the securities in Maryland, thus giving them a permanent situs for lawful taxation there, and no person in Virginia has present right to their enjoyment or power to remove them, the fiction must be disregarded. It plainly conflicts with fact; the securities did not and could not follow any person domiciled in Virginia. Their actual situs is in Maryland and cannot be changed by the cestuis que trust.

The power of Virginia to lay a tax upon the fair value of any interest in the securities actually owned by one of her resident citizens is not now presented for consideration. See Maguire v. Trefry, supra.

A statute of a state which undertakes to tax things wholly beyond her jurisdiction or control conflicts with the Fourteenth Amendment. Union Refrigerator Transit Co. v. Kentucky, 199 U. S. 194, 204, 26 S. Ct. 36, 50 L. Ed. 150, 4 Ann. Cas. 493; Buck v. Beach, 206

Page 93

U. S. 392, 402, 408, 409, 27 S. Ct. 712, 51 L. Ed. 1106, 11 Ann. Cas. 732; Frick v. Pennsylvania, 268 U. S. 473, 45 S. Ct. 603, 69 L. Ed. 1058, 42 A. L. R. 316; Wachovia Bank & Trust Co. v. Doughton, 272 U. S. 567, 575, 47 S. Ct. 202, 71 L. Ed. 413.

Tangible personal property permanently located beyond the owner's domicile may not be taxed at the latter place. Union Refrig. Transit Co. v. Kentucky, supra; Frick v. Pennsylvania, supra. Intangible personal property may acquire a taxable situs where permanently located, employed and protected. New Orleans v. Stemple, 175 U. S. 309, 20 S. Ct. 110, 44 L. Ed. 174; Bristol v. Washington County, 177 U. S. 133, 20 S. Ct. 746, 44 L. Ed. 701; State Board of Assessors v. Comptoir National d'Escompte, 191 U. S. 388, 24 S. Ct. 109, 48 L. Ed. 232; Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. New Orleans, 205 U. S. 395, 27 S. Ct. 499, 51 L. Ed. 853; Liverpool, etc., Ins. Co. v. Orleans Assessors, 221 U. S. 346, 31 S. Ct. 550, 55 L. Ed. 762, L. R. A. 1915C, 903.

Here we must decide whether intangibles-stocks, bonds-in the hands of the holder of the legal title with definite taxable situs at its residence, not subject to change by the equitable owner, may be taxed at the latter's domicile in another state. We think not. The reasons which led this court in Union Refrig. Transit Co. v. Kentucky, 199 U. S. 194, 26 S. Ct. 36, 50 L. Ed. 150, 4 Ann. Cas. 493, and Frick v. Pennsylvania, 268 U. S. 473, 45 S. Ct. 603, 69 L. Ed. 1058, 42 A. L. R. 316, to deny application of the maxim mobilia sequuntur personam to tangibles apply to the intangibles in appellant's possession. They have acquired a situs separate from that of the beneficial owners. The adoption of a contrary rule would 'involve possibilities of an extremely serious character' by permitting double taxation, both unjust and oppressive. And the fiction of mobilia sequuntur personam 'was intended for convenience, and...

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134 practice notes
  • Newton's Estate, In re
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • September 7, 1950
    ...27 S.Ct. 550, 51 L.Ed. 882. Cf. Brooke v. City of Norfolk, 277 U.S. 27, 48 S.Ct. 422, 72 L.Ed. 767; Safe Deposit & T. Co. v. Virginia, 280 U.S. 83, 50 S.Ct. 59, 74 L.Ed. 180, 67 A.L.R. The foregoing declarations disclosed the fundamental error in arriving at a contrary conclusion in the Wac......
  • Greenough v. Tax Assessors of City of Newport, No. 461
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 9, 1947
    ...of another state where the trust was administered. Safe Deposit and Trust Company of Baltimore, Md., v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 280 U.S. 83, 50 S.Ct. 59, 74 L.Ed. 180, 67 A.L.R. 386, held invalid a state's tax on a trust's intangibles, actually in the hands of the nonresident trustee and ......
  • State of Texas v. State of Florida, No. 11
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 13, 1939
    ...City of New Orleans v. Stempel, 175 U.S. 309, 20 S.Ct. 110, 44 L.Ed. 174; Safe Deposit & Trust Co. of Maryland v. Virginia, 280 u.S. 83, 50 S.Ct. 59, 74 L.Ed. 180, 67 A.L.R. 386; Beidler v. South Carolina Tax Commission, 282 U.S. 1, 8, 51 S.Ct. 54, 55, 75 L.Ed. 131; First National Bank v. M......
  • Miller Bros Co v. State of Maryland, No. 160
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 5, 1954
    ...184, 36 S.Ct. 265, 60 L.Ed. 594; State of Iowa v. Slimmer, 248 U.S. 115, 39 S.Ct. 33, 63 L.Ed. 158; Safe Deposit & Trust Co. v. Virginia, 280 U.S. 83, 50 S.Ct. 59, 74 L.Ed. 180; Com. of Virginia v. Imperial Coal Sales Co., 293 U.S. 15, 55 S.Ct. 12, 79 L.Ed. 171; Wheeling Steel Corp. v. Fox,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
134 cases
  • Newton's Estate, In re
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • September 7, 1950
    ...27 S.Ct. 550, 51 L.Ed. 882. Cf. Brooke v. City of Norfolk, 277 U.S. 27, 48 S.Ct. 422, 72 L.Ed. 767; Safe Deposit & T. Co. v. Virginia, 280 U.S. 83, 50 S.Ct. 59, 74 L.Ed. 180, 67 A.L.R. The foregoing declarations disclosed the fundamental error in arriving at a contrary conclusion in the Wac......
  • Greenough v. Tax Assessors of City of Newport, No. 461
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 9, 1947
    ...of another state where the trust was administered. Safe Deposit and Trust Company of Baltimore, Md., v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 280 U.S. 83, 50 S.Ct. 59, 74 L.Ed. 180, 67 A.L.R. 386, held invalid a state's tax on a trust's intangibles, actually in the hands of the nonresident trustee and ......
  • State of Texas v. State of Florida, No. 11
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 13, 1939
    ...City of New Orleans v. Stempel, 175 U.S. 309, 20 S.Ct. 110, 44 L.Ed. 174; Safe Deposit & Trust Co. of Maryland v. Virginia, 280 u.S. 83, 50 S.Ct. 59, 74 L.Ed. 180, 67 A.L.R. 386; Beidler v. South Carolina Tax Commission, 282 U.S. 1, 8, 51 S.Ct. 54, 55, 75 L.Ed. 131; First National Bank v. M......
  • Miller Bros Co v. State of Maryland, No. 160
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 5, 1954
    ...184, 36 S.Ct. 265, 60 L.Ed. 594; State of Iowa v. Slimmer, 248 U.S. 115, 39 S.Ct. 33, 63 L.Ed. 158; Safe Deposit & Trust Co. v. Virginia, 280 U.S. 83, 50 S.Ct. 59, 74 L.Ed. 180; Com. of Virginia v. Imperial Coal Sales Co., 293 U.S. 15, 55 S.Ct. 12, 79 L.Ed. 171; Wheeling Steel Corp. v. Fox,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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