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U.S. Supreme Court

Adams Express Co. v. Ohio State Auditor, 166 U.S. 185 (1897)

Adams Express Company v. Ohio State Auditor

Petition for rehearing of No. 337, reported 165 U.S. 194,

and Nos. 469 and 471, reported 165 U.S. 255

Received March 1, 1897

Decided March 16, 1897

166 U.S. 185


The members of the Court who concurred in the above named judgments add a few observations to what has been already said.

It is well settled that no state can interfere with interstate commerce through the imposition of a tax which is, in effect, a tax for the privilege of transacting such commerce, and also that such restriction upon the power of a state does not in the least degree abridge its right to tax at their full value all the instrumentalities used for such commerce.

The state statutes imposing taxes upon express companies which form the subject of these suits grant no privilege of doing an express business, and contemplate only the assessment and levy of taxes upon the properties of the respective companies situated within the respective states.

In the complex civilization of today, a large portion of the wealth of a community consists of intangible property, and there is nothing in the nature of things or in the limitations of the federal Constitution which restrains a state from taxing such intangible property at its real value.

Whenever separate articles of tangible property are joined together not simply by a unity of ownership, but in a unity of use, there is not unfrequently developed a property, intangible though it may be, which in value exceeds the aggregate of the value of the separate pieces of tangible property.

Page 166 U. S. 186

Whatever property is worth for the purposes of income and sale it is worth for the purposes of taxation, and if the state comprehends all property in its scheme of taxation, then the goodwill of an organized and established industry must be recognized as a thing of value, and taxable.

The capital stock of a corporation and the shares in a joint stock company represent not only its tangible property, but also its intangible property, including therein all corporate franchises and all contracts, privileges, and goodwill of the concern, and when, as in the case of the express company, the tangible property of the corporation is scattered through different states by means of which its business is transacted in each, the situs of this intangible property is not simply where its home ofnce is, but is distributed wherever its tangible property is located and its work is done.

No fine-spun theories about situs should interfere to enable these large corporations, whose business is of necessity carried on through many states, from bearing in each state such burden of taxation as a fair distribution of the actual value of their property among those states requires.

[Text of Petition for Rehearing omitted.]

Page 166 U. S. 217

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