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U.S. Supreme Court

Central Railroad & Banking Co. v. Wright, 164 U.S. 327 (1896)

Central Railroad & Banking Company v. Wright

No. 300

Argued October 22, 1896

Decided November 30, 1896

164 U.S. 327


Section eighteen of the act of the Legislature of Georgia of December 14, 1835, providing that no municipal or other corporation shall have power to tax the stock of the Central Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia, but may tax any property, real or personal, of said company within the jurisdiction of said corporation in the ratio of taxation of like property, when construed in connection with other legislation on that subject, permits municipal corporations to tax such property within their respective jurisdictions in the ratio of taxation of like property.

While, in the absence of any words showing a different intent, an exemption of .the stock or capital stock of a corporation may imply and carry with it an exemption of the property in which such stock is invested, yet, if the legislature uses language at variance with such intention, the courts,

Page 164 U. S. 328

which will never presume a purpose to exempt any property from its just share of the public burdens, will construe any doubts which may arise as to the proper interpretation of the charter against the exemption.

This was an intervening petition filed by William A. Wright, Comptroller General of the State of Georgia, praying that the receivers of the Central Railroad & Banking Company, appointed in a suit for the foreclosure of a mortgage to the Farmers' Loan & Trust Company, be required to pay him certain taxes said to be due by the corporation for the year 1891 upon its property in different counties and cities upon the line of its road in the State of Georgia, which taxes were claimed to be a lien upon the property of the road.

The taxes were assessed in pursuance of certain acts of the General Assembly passed in 1889 and 1890, authorizing counties and cities to tax railroad property. The taxes were levied upon the railroad and appurtenances of that portion of the Central Railroad between Savannah and Macon, and included no other property of the company. The defendants claim the taxes to be invalid upon the ground that the railroad and its appurtenances over that part of the line from Savannah to Macon were subject only to a taxation of one-half of one percent upon the net annual income of the road, and that the acts of 1889 and 1890, insofar as they authorized the taxation of its property by counties and other municipalities, impaired the obligation of the original contract of the state contained in its charter, and were therefore void.

The circuit court was of opinion that the taxes were properly levied, and made a decree for their payment by the receivers, and from that decree the corporation and its receivers appealed to this Court.

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