Scott v. Western Pac. R. Co.

Decision Date03 December 1917
Docket Number2950.
Citation246 F. 545
PartiesSCOTT, Collector of Internal Revenue, v. WESTERN PAC. R. CO. et al.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

John W Preston, U.S. Atty., and Ed. F. Jared, Asst. U.S. Atty., both of San Francisco, Cal., for appellant.

A. R Baldwin, of San Francisco, Cal., for appellees.

Before GILBERT, ROSS, and HUNT, Circuit Judges.

HUNT Circuit Judge.

In accordance with the Income Tax Law of October 3, 1913, 38 Large, 166, c. 16, the receivers of the Western Pacific Railroad Company filed a return of the net income of the road for 1915. The report showed no taxable income. The Treasury Department officials, being of the opinion that certain deductions from the gross income received were not actual disbursements, disallowed certain interest deductions and ordered an assessment upon $1,408,034.99. The receivers who had been appointed by the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of California, in an action entitled 'Equitable Trust Co. of New York, Plaintiff, v. Western Pacific Railroad Co. et al., Defendants,' filed a petition in the District Court, setting up that the assessment was illegal, and praying that a citation issue to Joseph J. Scott, collector of internal revenue, directing him to appear and show cause why the statement filed by the receivers should not be accepted. The collector appeared through the United States attorney and moved to dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction and other reasons going to the merits. After a hearing the court ordered the receivers to make no payments of income tax and dismissed the order to show cause. The collector has appealed from this order.

Counsel for the United States contend that the court exceeded its jurisdiction in making the order complained of and cite section 3224 of the Revised Statutes of the United States (Comp. St. 1916, Sec. 5947), which provides that no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court. But we regard that statute as inapplicable, and for the reason that this is not a suit to restrain the assessment or collection of a tax. Receivers are officers of the court, and by all authority may properly ask instructions from the court concerning the administration of the property in their hands. High on Receivers, Sec. 188; Grant v. Phoenix Life Insurance Co., 121 U.S. 118, 7 Sup.Ct. 849, 30 L.Ed. 909. That the question presented to them involves payment of taxes does not change the rule. In Ex parte Chamberlain (C.C.) 55 F. 704, the receiver of a railway property petitioned the court for necessary orders to prevent the enforcement of the payment of certain local taxes which had been imposed. The Circuit Court, Judges Goff and Simonton sitting, held that the property in the hands of the receiver was in the custody of the court, and that, while it was the duty of the receivers to pay lawfully imposed taxes without asking the sanction of the court, on the other hand, they were not bound to pay a tax, which in their judgment was unlawful, without an order of the court, and that it was their duty to apply to the court either for instruction or protection when they believed the legality of the tax questionable. Upon review the Supreme Court affirmed this view (Ex parte Tyler, 149 U.S. 164, 13 Sup.Ct. 785, 37 L.Ed. 689), saying that the usual course pursued was by intervention pro interesse suo, as in the instance of sequestration, and that no reason was perceived why the tax collector should not bring his claim to the attention of the court, and that it was the clear duty to do so if he contended that the taxes are illegal. 'If found valid, they must be paid; if invalid, the court will so declare, subject to the review of the appellate tribunals. ' Ledoux v. La Bee (C.C.) 83 F. 761; Pennsylvania Steel Co. v. New York City Railway Co. (C.C.) 176 F.

477; Id. (C.C.) 193 F. 286, affirmed in 198 F. 775, 117 C.C.A. 556; see, further, United States v. Whitridge, 231 U.S. 144, 34 Sup.Ct. 24, 58 L.Ed. 159; Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., 240 U.S. 1, 36 Sup.Ct. 236, 60 L.Ed. 493, Ann. Cas. 1917B, 713, L.R.A. 1917D, 414; Spencer v. Babylon R. Co. (D.C.) 233 F. 803. We believe there was jurisdiction to make the order complained of.

The next question is whether the act of Congress of October 3, 1913, applies to receivers of corporations. References to parts of the law, section II, a to N, inclusive, of the act of Congress which is generally called the Income Tax provision, shows no express language providing for the imposition and collection of any tax upon corporations in the hands of receivers. Detailed regulation is made for the levy and assessment upon the net income of every corporation, joint-stock company, or association, and every insurance company organized in the United States. These are substantially the same expressions found in section 38 of the Income Tax Law of August 5, 1909, where it was provided that:

'Every corporation, joint-stock company or association, organized for profit and having a capital stock represented by shares, and every insurance company, now or hereafter organized under the laws of the United States * * * shall be subject to pay annually a special excise tax with respect to the carrying on or doing business.'

The omission in section II of the Act of August 5, 1909, of the word 'receivers,' opened the way to litigation as to the intent of Congress. One of the principal cases is Pennsylvania Steel Co. v. New York City Railway Co (C.C.) 176 F. 477, where the receivers of the defendant road asked instructions as to what...

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