Triplett v. City of Chester

Decision Date13 December 1946
Docket Number15899.
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

Charles W. McTeer, of Chester, for appellants.

J Means McFadden, of Chester, for respondent.

OXNER, Justice.

This is an action for the recovery of a license or occupation tax paid under protest by respondent to the City of Chester. The tax involved, amounting to $25, was imposed under the terms of an ordinance enacted on August 21, 1945, and made effective on January 1, 1946. Prior to this time there was no business license or occupation tax imposed by the City of Chester.

The purpose of the ordinance, as stated in the title, is 'to raise revenue for the operation of the City of Chester by providing for the licensing of all businesses, trades and professions carried on in the City of Chester.' Section 1 is as follows: 'That every person, firm or corporation hereafter engaged in any business, profession or vocation hereafter mentioned within the corporate limits of the City of Chester, S. C., shall first secure from the City Treasurer of the said city a special license to conduct said business for which shall be paid in advance to the City Treasurer a special license tax as hereinafter fixed in this ordinance.' The license required is due and payable during the month of January of each year and expires on December 31st. Section 11 provides: 'That where the license fee provided for in this ordinance is based on volume of business or gross income, then the person, firm or corporation applying for a license shall submit an affidavit to the City Treasurer at the time said application is made and the affidavit must show the volume of business or gross income of the business in the City of Chester during the preceding calendar year.' The following license or tax is imposed on contractors:

'Building Contractors, resident gross income $1,000.00 or less, per

year $25.00

For each additional $1,000.00 or fractional part thereof, per year .... $ 1.00'

'Contractor resident, gross income $5,000.00 or less per year ........ $50.00

For each additional $1,000.00 or fractional part thereof, per year .... $ 1.00'

(Respondent states in his brief that the license of contractors having a gross income of $5000 or less per year was subsequently reduced from $50 to $25.)

Respondent is a resident of Chester. He is now, and has been for a number of years, engaged in business as a general contractor, building and constructing highway and railroad bridges, overpasses and underpasses, and other work of a like nature. He has carried on this work in various sections of South Carolina and in other States but has never done any actual construction work within the City of Chester. Prior to 1939, the only office maintained by him was at the site of actual construction. During that year he established a central office in a building owned by him in the City of Chester. In this office the books and records are kept and payrolls made up, business appointments are made and consultation with other contractors held, bids on projects prepared and contracts executed, and other usual administrative work incident to such business performed. One or more employees are regularly in said office during business hours and respondent is there when not away at some project under construction. All equipment when not in use is stored in the building in which the office is located.

This appeal is by the City from an order of the Court below permitting recovery of the tax paid under protest by respondent, together with interest thereon. The trial Judge reached the following conclusion: 'It is all too clear that the language of the ordinance was not only 'reasonably susceptible of an interpretation that would exclude' the plaintiff, but it is clear that the ordinance as to the plaintiff herein is null, void and of no force and effect.' He said: 'Under the admitted facts in this case, the plaintiff having not engaged in contracting in the City of Chester and not having received any revenue therefrom, the City of Chester is attempting to levy a tax on contracting work done in other municipalities, which is beyond its power to do so.'

The right of a municipality of the size of the City of Chester to impose a license on all persons engaged in any business, occupation or profession within its corporate limits is apparently unchallenged. See Section 7433, Code of 1942, and Article 8, Section 6, of the Constitution.

We are unable to agree with the soundness of respondent's contention that no part of his business was conducted within the corporate limits of Chester. It is the privilege of doing business within the municipality that is sought to be taxed. The administrative and executive work, an indispensable phase of respondent's business, was conducted in the office established, maintained and operated in the City. His equipment when not in use was stored in the City. This portion of his business enjoyed all the advantages afforded by the municipal government of Chester to any other business conducted within its corporate limits. We cannot dissociate the managerial features of the business which were conducted within the City, along with the storing of equipment, from the manual execution of the work which was done without the City. All are essential functions of the general contracting business in which respondent is engaged. It frequently happens that there is a business located within a municipality that does not do all of its business within the corporate limits of such town or city.

In Crosswell & Co., Inc. v. The Town of Bishopville, 172 S.C. 26, 172 S.E. 698, it was held that the plaintiff was liable for a license tax for 'doing business' in the Town of Bishopville although it was engaged in the wholesale grocery business in the City of Sumter, where it had its principal place of business, and the only business done at Bishopville consisted of the delivery of merchandise to customers in said town by trucks sent...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 cases
  • Hay v. Leonard
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • February 26, 1948
    ... ... license tax for privilege of engaging in business in county ... of Charleston except in city of Charleston. From an adverse ... judgment, plaintiffs appeal ...        Equitable ... clause, is much broader. Cf. Triplett v. City of ... Chester, 209 S.C. 455, 40 S.E.2d 684, and cases therein ... cited, especially ... ...
  • City of New Orleans v. W. Horace Williams Co.
    • United States
    • Louisiana Supreme Court
    • November 10, 1947
    ... ... whole. The gross income or volume of such business is merely ... made the basis on which the tax is graduated.' Triplett ... v. City of Chester, 209 S.C. 455, 40 S.E.2d 684, 687. See, ... also, City of LaGrange v. Whitley, 180 Ga. 805, 180 S.E. 823, ... and compare ... ...

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT