STURGES V. CARTER, 114 U. S. 511 (1885)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sturges v. Carter, 114 U.S. 511 (1885)

Sturges v. Carter

Argued March 31, 1885

Decided May 4, 1885

114 U.S. 511


A statute of Ohio authorized county auditors to issue compulsory process to bring before them persons who they had reason to believe were making false returns of their property for purposes of taxation, and to examine them under oath, and required them to notify every person before making

Page 114 U. S. 512

entry on the tax list that he might have an opportunity to show that his statement or return was correct. A taxpayer was summoned before the auditor to give information of property not returned for taxation, and appeared, and while in attendance was informed by the auditor of his purpose to increase the amount of property returned by him for taxation. Held that this was a substantial compliance with the provision requiring the auditor to notify the taxpayer before making entry of the increase.

The Act of the Legislature of Ohio of May 11, 1878, authorizing auditors to extend inquiries into returns of property for taxation over a period of four years next before that in which the inquiry is made is no violation of that provision in the constitution of that state which declares that "The General Assembly shall have no power to pass retroactive laws."

Mr. Justice Story's definition of a retrospective law in Society for Propagating the Gospel v. Wheeler, 2 Gall. 139, has been adopted by the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio, and is quoted and adopted by this Court.

The provision § 59, Act of April 5, 1859, of Ohio, that

"No person shall be required to list for taxation any certificate of the capital stock of any company the capital stock of which is taxed in the name of the company"

does not apply to shares in a foreign corporation which pays taxes in Ohio only on the portion of its property which is situated there.

This action, brought in a state court of Ohio by a county treasurer to recover taxes upon shares of stock of the Western Union Telegraph Company of New York, held by the defendant below and not returned by him for taxation, was removed to the circuit court of the United States after answer filed. Judgment below in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant below sued out this writ of error. The facts which make the case are stated in the opinion of the Court.

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