SPRINGER V. UNITED STATES, 102 U. S. 586 (1880)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Springer v. United States, 102 U.S. 586 (1880)

Springer v. United States

102 U.S. 586


1. Certain lands of A. were distrained and sold by reason of his refusal to pay the income tax assessed against him under the Act of June 30, 1864, 13 Stat. 218, as amended by the Act of March 3, 1865, id., 469, he having no goods or chattels known to the proper officers out of which the tax and penalty could have been made. The United States became the purchaser of the lands, received a deed therefor, and brought ejectment against him. Held that he cannot raise the question here that the deed, inasmuch as it refers to the Act of March 30 instead of that of June 30, should, on the trial, have been excluded from the jury, as that objection to its admissibility in evidence was not made in the court of original jurisdiction.

2. Where the collector acted in good faith, it was not improper for him, in the exercise of his discretion, to sell as an entirety the lands, consisting of two town lots which were enclosed and occupied as a single homestead, a dwelling house being upon one of them and a barn on the other. The state statute under which they were separately assessed has no application to his proceedings.

3. Congress, in the exercise of its power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises," may, to enforce their payment, authorize the distraint and sale of either real or personal property. The owner of the property so distrained and sold is not thereby deprived of it without due process of law.

4. Direct taxes, within the meaning of the Constitution, are only capitation taxes as expressed in that instrument, and taxes on real estate.

5. The duty which the internal revenue acts provided should be assessed, collected, and paid upon gains, profits, and incomes was an excise or duty, and not a direct tax, within the meaning of the Constitution.

Page 102 U. S. 587

In June, 1866, the deputy assessor of internal revenue for the proper district in Illinois delivered to William M. Springer a notice in writing, with certain accompanying forms, requiring him within ten days to make out and return, according to those forms, a list of his income, gains, and profits for the year 1865. In compliance therewith, Springer made out the necessary statement, dated June 21, 1866, and delivered it to the deputy, together with a written protest against the authority of the latter to demand the statement, on the ground that the acts of Congress under which that officer acted were unconstitutional and void. The statement, showing that the net income received by Springer for the year 1865, and subject to taxation, amounted to $50,798, upon which the sum of $4,799.80 was assessed as tax, was transmitted to David T. Littler, the collector, who, Nov. 17, 1866, payment being refused, served a notice upon Springer demanding payment, and warning him that, unless it should be made within ten days, the law authorized the collection of the tax, together with a penalty of ten percent additional by distraint and sale.

Payment being again refused, and Springer having no goods or chattels which were known to the collector or his deputy, the collector, Jan. 24, 1867, caused a warrant for $5,279.78, the amount of the tax and penalty, to be issued and levied upon certain real estate in the city of Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, consisting of two pieces of lots in the same enclosure without any division fence, and belonging to Springer, upon one of which pieces was located his dwelling house and upon the other his barn. The property was advertised and, on March 15, 1867, sold, the United States becoming the purchaser for the amount of the tax, penalty, and costs. On that day Littler, as collector, made and executed to the United States a deed of the property, which, Nov. 28, 1868, was recorded in the recorder's office of that county. Jonathan Merriam, his successor as collector, made and executed, April 17, 1874, another deed to the United States for the same property. This deed was duly recorded April 23, 1874. It recites the assessment of the tax, the demand therefor, the seizure and sale of

Page 102 U. S. 588

the property

"by virtue of an act of Congress of the United States of America, entitled An Act to provide internal revenue to support the government, and to pay interest on the public debt,' approved July 1, 1862, and the Act of March 30, 1864, as amended."

Dec. 2, 1874, the United States brought this action of ejectment against Springer.

At the trial, the plaintiff, having proved the foregoing facts, offered in evidence the deed of April 17, 1874; but the defendant objected thereto on the ground that the deed is void, because the tax demanded of him was a direct tax, and, not being levied in the manner prescribed by the Constitution, was not a legal or valid demand upon him; that the summary levy upon and sale of his property without opportunity to him to be heard in court deprived him of his property without due process of law; that the acts of Congress purporting to authorize the assessment and levy of the tax, the sale of his property and the execution of the deed, were without force or validity; and that as the property was susceptible of division into separate tracts or lots, the laws of Illinois were disregarded by not selling it accordingly. He also for the same reasons objected to the introduction in evidence of the papers pertaining to the assessment, levy, and sale; but the court overruled the objection, and permitted them and the deed to be read in evidence. The defendant thereupon excepted.

It was proved by the defendant that he purchased the lots from different parties, that they are separately described, are susceptible of division, and would have sold to better advantage had they been sold separately; that they were assessed separately for the purpose of state taxation, and were, in 1866, worth between $10,000 and $12,000.

The court thereupon, at the request of the plaintiff, charged the jury: 1. that the deed in question is a valid instrument, and transferred to the United States the title of the defendant in and to the lots; 2. that the laws or acts of Congress mentioned in said deed were valid enactments at the time, and authorized the proceedings taken in the premises. To which instructions the defendant excepted, and asked the court to charge the jury --

Page 102 U. S. 589

1. That the tax on the income, gains, and profits of the defendant, assessed upon him, as appears by the evidence in this case, was a direct tax within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and that, in order to constitute such tax a valid claim upon the defendant, it should have been apportioned among the several states the same as representatives in Congress are. And if the jury believe from the evidence that such tax was not so apportioned among the several states, then such tax was levied in violation of the Constitution, and the sale of defendant's property to satisfy the same is void, and in that case they will find for the defendant.

2. That the sale of defendant's real estate to satisfy the tax assessed upon him in a summary manner, without first having obtained a judgment in a court of record, was a proceeding to deprive the defendant of his property without due process of law; and if the jury believe from the evidence that defendant's real estate was sold to satisfy the tax assessed upon him, without having first obtained a judgment in a court of record, or without giving said defendant an opportunity to be heard in court, then such sale was void, and they will find for the defendant.

3. That if the jury believe from the evidence in this case that a penalty of ten percent upon the amount of said tax was assessed upon defendant by the collector of internal revenue, which penalty amounted to $479.98, without having obtained a judgment in a court of record, by due process of law, and that the defendant's real estate was sold to satisfy said penalty, together with said tax, then such sale was void, and they will find for the defendant.

4. That a party claiming title to land under a summary or extraordinary proceeding must show that all the indispensable preliminaries to a valid sale which the law and the Constitution prescribe have been complied with; and if they believe from the evidence that the plaintiff has failed to show that all the requirements of the law have been complied with in the assessment and levy of the tax, the service of the notice, the issue of the warrant, and the execution thereof, in the advertisement and sale of the property, in the making and

Page 102 U. S. 590

execution of the deed, and in all the other requirements of the law, then they will find for the defendant.

5. That the sale of real estate to satisfy a personal tax not levied upon or a lien upon said real estate, without first having obtained a judgment in a court of record and an execution in pursuance thereof, is a proceeding to deprive a person of his property without due process of law; and if they believe from the evidence in this case that the tax levied upon defendant was not assessed in the first instance upon said real estate and made a lien thereon, and that said real estate was sold to satisfy said tax without a judgment of a court of record, then such sale is void, and they will find for the defendant.

But the court refused to so charge the jury, to which refusal the defendant excepted.

The jury found for the United States, and a motion for a new trial having been refused, to which refusal the defendant excepted, judgment was rendered accordingly. The defendant then sued out this writ, and here assigns for error --

1. The admission in evidence of the deed and other papers in the court below.

2. The refusal of the court to charge the jury as requested by him.

3. The giving of the charge requested by the plaintiff.

4. The refusal to grant a new trial.

Page 102 U. S. 592

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