State v. Lesser

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Writing for the CourtValliant
Citation237 Mo. 310,141 S.W. 888
Decision Date14 November 1911
PartiesSTATE ex rel. KOELN, Collector, v. LESSER et al.
141 S.W. 888
237 Mo. 310
STATE ex rel. KOELN, Collector,
v.
LESSER et al.
Supreme Court of Missouri.
November 14, 1911.

1. TAXATION (§§ 295, 544)—RIGHT TO ENFORCE.

There can be no lawful collection of a tax until there is a lawful assessment, and there can be no lawful assessment except in the manner prescribed by law, and of property designated by law for that purpose.

2. TAXATION (§ 169)—PROPERTY SUBJECT TO —STOCK IN FOREIGN CORPORATIONS—"PROPERTY" —"PERSONAL PROPERTY."

Stock held by a resident in a foreign corporation whose property is all outside the state is not such "property" or "personal property" as is taxable under Rev. St. 1909, §§ 11,348, 11,415, 11,519; the last section defining property

[141 S.W. 889]

to include every tangible or intangible thing being the subject of ownership, whether animate or inaminate, real or personal.

In Banc. Appeal from St. Louis Circuit Court; Jas. E. Withrow, Judge.

Action by the State, on the relation of Edmond Koeln, collector, against Harry Lesser and others, executors. Judgment for defendants, and plaintiff appeals. Affirmed.

Edward W. Foristel and Frank H. Haskins, for appellant. Lewis & Rice, McDonald & Taylor, Joseph H. Zumbalen, and Henry T. Ferriss, for respondents.

VALLIANT, C. J.


Appellant as revenue collector of the city of St. Louis sued respondents to recover the amount of certain bills for taxes assessed against them as executors of the will of Julius Lesser, deceased. The petition alleges that defendants were the owners and had charge and management of "taxable personal property in the city of St. Louis of the aggregate value of $89,300, on which taxes had been regularly assessed and the tax bills placed in the hands of the plaintiff as collector, who had used all lawful means to collect, but was unable to do so," etc. The amount of the tax bills was $1,982.46, for which judgment, with interest and costs, was asked. The defendants answered, showing that the alleged "taxable personal property in the city of St. Louis" consisted of shares of stock in foreign corporations, all of which have their assets in other states and pay taxes thereon in such states. The ownership of the shares of stock by defendants in St. Louis is admitted, and the regularity of the steps taken in making the assessment and the issuance of the tax bills is not challenged. The position of the defendants is that the revenue statutes of this state do not subject to taxation shares of stock held by a resident in this state in foreign corporations whose property is all beyond our borders, and that a levy of such taxation would be unconstitutional. There is no dispute as to the facts. The interests sought to be taxed are as stated in the answer. The judgment of the circuit court was in favor of the defendants, and the collector appealed.

We do not understand appellant as claiming that there is any statute which in express terms subjects shares of stock in all corporations in general, or in foreign corporations in particular, to taxation. But his contention is that shares of stock are personal property, and are comprehended in the term "property," as used in the last line of section 11.348. R. S. 1909, and he also relies on the definitions of the terms "property" and "personal property" given in section 11,519, R. S. 1909. Tracing the history of our revenue laws through the cases that have come to this court, one will see that there have been many disputes between the assessor and collector of taxes on the one hand and corporations and the holder of shares of stock on the other, concerning the meaning of our revenue statutes in relation to the taxing of shares of stock and the property of corporations, yet, although the statutes relied on by appellant are substantially now as they have been for thirty years or more, this case affords the first instance in which it has been claimed that those statutes are to be so interpreted as to mean that shares of stock held by a resident in this state in foreign corporations that own no property here are to be assessed for taxation against the shareholder. If such were the plain meaning of the statutes, the fact that they had not been enforced in the past would not justify their nonenforcement now; but, if we have to resort to artificial reasoning to find such a meaning in the statutes, the fact that they have never been so interpreted before is worthy to be considered. The sovereign power of the state to require its citizens to pay taxes on all their personal property, or on what they own representing their interests in personal property, within or without the state, may, for the purposes of this case, be conceded. But, conceding that the state has the power to tax such interests, it does not follow that such interests are taxed unless the law so declares. It is not left to the tax assessor or tax collector to say what property or what interests in property are to be taxed. Under our system of taxation, there can be no lawful collection of a tax until there is a lawful assessment, and there can be no lawful assessment except in the manner prescribed by law and of property designated by law for that purpose. Abbott v. Lindenbower, 42 Mo. 162; Valle v. Ziegler, 84 Mo. 214; Wyatt v. Railroad, 114 Mo. 1, 21 S. W. 26; Kansas City v. Building Association, 145 Mo. 50, 46 S. W. 624; St. Louis v. Wenneker, 145 Mo. 230, 47 S. W. 105, 68 Am. St. Rep. 561; State ex rel. v. Cunningham, 153 Mo. 642, 55 S. W. 249; State ex rel. Carlton v. Alt, 224 Mo. 493, 123 S. W. 882.

Section 11,348 requires the assessor to furnish the person to be assessed a printed or written blank, prepared for that purpose, containing a list of all the kinds of personal property that he is to return for taxation. The statute has carefully enumerated all things on which the tax is to be levied, and the list is designed to be so explicit that every taxpayer may understand what is required of him. The taxpayer is required to fill out the blanks showing how much, if any, of each item specified he owns, and the list so made out is to be signed and sworn

141 S.W. 890

to by him, and, if it is false, he is liable to the pains and penalties of perjury. No one can read that section of the statute without being impressed with the thought that it was the purpose of the lawmaker to make the duty of the taxpayer in rendering his list for taxation so plain that one could neither honestly escape making a list of all his property called for, or be unconsciously led into making a false return and a false oath. The statute classifies the property to be listed under ten heads, of which it is not claimed that shares of stock in foreign corporations are included in the first nine, or that they are expressly included in the tenth, but the claim is that they are included under the general term "property" in the last line. That tenth clause is as follows: "Tenth, all other property not above enumerated (except merchandise) and its value; under this head shall be included all pleasure carriages of all kinds; all shares of stock or interest held in steamboats, keelboats, wharfboats and all other vessels; all toll bridges, all printing presses, type and machinery therewith connected, and all portable mills of every description, and all post coaches, carriages, wagons and other vehicles used by any person in the transportation of mail (except railway carriages), all carriages, hacks, wagons, buggies and other vehicles of every kind and description kept or used by liverymen; all carts, hacks, omnibuses and other vehicles used in the transportation of persons (except railway carriages) and all paintings and statuary, and every other species of property not exempt by law from taxation." That clause begins with the general term, "all other property not above enumerated," and ends with the even more general term, "every other species of property not exempt by law from taxation." If by those two general terms the lawmaker intended to say that everything that a person might own or have any interest in either direct or indirect here or elsewhere was to be listed for taxation, what was the use of specifying items either in that clause or in the preceding nine clauses? If shares of stock in a foreign corporation are...

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27 practice notes
  • State ex rel. Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Lucas, No. 35701.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 8, 1941
    ...Mo. 329; State ex rel. v. Phillips Pipe Line, 339 Mo. 459; State ex rel. Natl. Life v. Hyde, 292 Mo. 342; State ex rel. Koeln v. Lesser, 237 Mo. 310; City v. Wenneker, 145 Mo. 230; Berry-Kofron Dental Co. v. Smith, 137 S.W. (2d) 452; Cleaver v. Central States Life, 142 S.W. (2d) 474; United......
  • Artophone Corporation v. Coale, No. 36439.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • November 22, 1939
    ...set forth in the statute. (a) The statute will be construed according to its plain and unambiguous terms. State ex rel. Koeln v. Lesser, 237 Mo. 310, 141 S.W., 888; Converse v. Northern Pac. Ry. Co., 2 Fed. (2d) 959; Leavell v. Blades, 237 Mo. 700, 141 S.W. 893; State ex rel. Liggett & Myer......
  • State v. Phillips Pipe Line Co., No. 34757.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • October 2, 1936
    ...Comm., 246 N.Y. 322, 158 N.E. 884; Consumers' Ice Co. v. State, 33 Atl. 427; Moffitt v. Reed, 246 N.W. 853; State ex rel. Koeln v. Lesser, 237 Mo. 310, 141 S.W. COLLET, J. This is an action brought by the Attorney General on behalf of the State of Missouri to collect corporation franchise t......
  • Kansas City v. Threshing Machine Co., No. 31452.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • October 18, 1935
    ...113 Fed. 237; Rock Island Co. v. United States, 4 Wall. 435, 18 L. Ed. 419; State v. Mayor, 30 Atl. 532; State v. Lesser, 237 Mo. 318, 141 S.W. 888; Moberly v. Hoover, 93 Mo. App. 721; St. Louis v. Meyer, 185 Mo. 583, 84 S.W. 914; Peterson v. Ry. Co., 178 S.W. 182; State ex rel. v. St. Loui......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • State ex rel. Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Lucas, No. 35701.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 8, 1941
    ...Mo. 329; State ex rel. v. Phillips Pipe Line, 339 Mo. 459; State ex rel. Natl. Life v. Hyde, 292 Mo. 342; State ex rel. Koeln v. Lesser, 237 Mo. 310; City v. Wenneker, 145 Mo. 230; Berry-Kofron Dental Co. v. Smith, 137 S.W. (2d) 452; Cleaver v. Central States Life, 142 S.W. (2d) 474; United......
  • Artophone Corporation v. Coale, No. 36439.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • November 22, 1939
    ...set forth in the statute. (a) The statute will be construed according to its plain and unambiguous terms. State ex rel. Koeln v. Lesser, 237 Mo. 310, 141 S.W., 888; Converse v. Northern Pac. Ry. Co., 2 Fed. (2d) 959; Leavell v. Blades, 237 Mo. 700, 141 S.W. 893; State ex rel. Liggett & Myer......
  • State v. Phillips Pipe Line Co., No. 34757.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • October 2, 1936
    ...Comm., 246 N.Y. 322, 158 N.E. 884; Consumers' Ice Co. v. State, 33 Atl. 427; Moffitt v. Reed, 246 N.W. 853; State ex rel. Koeln v. Lesser, 237 Mo. 310, 141 S.W. COLLET, J. This is an action brought by the Attorney General on behalf of the State of Missouri to collect corporation franchise t......
  • Kansas City v. Threshing Machine Co., No. 31452.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • October 18, 1935
    ...113 Fed. 237; Rock Island Co. v. United States, 4 Wall. 435, 18 L. Ed. 419; State v. Mayor, 30 Atl. 532; State v. Lesser, 237 Mo. 318, 141 S.W. 888; Moberly v. Hoover, 93 Mo. App. 721; St. Louis v. Meyer, 185 Mo. 583, 84 S.W. 914; Peterson v. Ry. Co., 178 S.W. 182; State ex rel. v. St. Loui......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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