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U.S. Supreme Court

Aberdeen Bank v. Chehalis County, 166 U.S. 440 (1897)

Aberdeen Bank v. Chehalis County

No. 38

Argued April 30, 1896

Decided April 12, 1897

166 U.S. 440


This Court is bound by the decision of the Supreme Court of the State of Washington (in which it concurs) that § 21 of the Act of that State of March 9, 1891, relating to the taxation of national banks in that state, is to be read in connection with § 23 of the same act, and that, when so read they do not impose upon such banks a tax forbidden by Rev.Stat. § 5219. National Bank v. Commonwealth, 9 Wall. 353, affirmed and followed in this matter.

Money invested in corporations or in individual enterprises that carry on the business of railroads, of manufacturing enterprises, mining investments and investments in mortgages, does not come into competition with the business of national banks, and is therefore not within the meaning of the provision in Rev.Stat. § 5219 forbidding state taxation of its shares at a greater rate than is assessed upon other moneyed capital in the hands of citizens of the state.

Insurance stocks may be taxed on income instead of on value, and deposits in savings banks and moneys belonging to charitable institutions may be exempted without infringing the provisions of that section of the Revised Statutes.

The allegations of the complaint do not show that any moneyed capital of the bank of the character defined by the decisions of this Court was omitted or intended to be omitted by the assessor, and those allegations are so general in these respects that they cannot be made the basis of action.

The first National Bank of the City of Aberdeen, State of Washington, a banking corporation organized under the national banking laws of the United States, filed its complaint in the Superior Court of the said state for the County of Chehalis, May 16, 1892, against the County of Chehalis and J. M. Carter, as ex officio tax collector of the county, seeking to enjoin the defendants from levying upon the safes, time locks, and other personal property of the complainant for the purpose of collecting a tax upon the shares of its capital stock. The defendants demurred to the complaint, and, the demurrer having been sustained, and the complainant having refused to amend its complaint, judgment was entered in the said court,

Page 166 U. S. 441

September 13, 1892, in favor of the defendants. The complainant took the case upon writ of error to the supreme court of the state, where the judgment was affirmed. 6 Wash. 64. The complainant then sued out a writ of error bringing the case here.

The essential allegations of the complaint were that the capital stock of the bank consisted of 500 shares of $100 each; that all of the stock was paid up, and was owned in part by citizens of the State of Washington, resident therein, and in part by citizens of the United States residing outside of the state; that the assessor of the said county was charged, under the provisions of an act of the legislature of the said state approved March 9, 1894, entitled "An act to provide for the assessment and collection of taxes in the State of Washington and declaring an emergency," with the duty of preparing an assessment roll of all the property subject to taxation in the said county, as owned and there subject to taxation on April 1, 1891; that thereupon the assessor proceeded to make out an assessment roll, wherein he listed to the complainant, as owner thereof, all of its capital stock, and, though informed by the complainant of the residence of each of the stockholders, and of the amount of stock held by each of them on April 1, 1891, assessed the capital stock in solido to the complainant as owner thereof at a total valuation of $50,000; that, upon the said assessment, the defendant Carter, as treasurer, was officially directed to collect from the complainant a tax in the amount of $686.25; that, the tax not having been paid, the said defendant, as treasurer, on March 1, 1892, declared the same delinquent, and added thereto a certain sum by way of penalty for nonpayment, and a certain sum as interest, and was about to proceed to collect the total amount, being $787.22 by levying upon the safes, time locks, and other property used by the bank, and that, if he were permitted so to do, the complainant would suffer irreparable injury; that, on April 1, 1891, there existed in the said county moneyed capital, other than that invested in shares of stock of national banks and banking business, owned by citizens of the state resident in that

Page 166 U. S. 442

county, and there invested in loans and securities owing by other citizens of the state residing in the county, exceeding the sum of $237,400; that there existed in the state moneyed capital owned by citizens of the state who were residents of other counties thereof (aside from the capital invested in banks and banking business), invested in loans and securities owing by citizens of the state residing in counties other than the county aforesaid, exceeding the sum of $14,000,000; that the total capitalization of national banks located in the state was the sum of $7,000,000, and the total capitalization of banks there located, incorporated under the laws of the state, the sum of $4,000,000; that large amounts of moneyed capital were invested in the state by residents thereof in the stocks and bonds of insurance, wharf, and gas companies, which amounts, together with all the moneyed capital above mentioned, made an aggregate of at least $26,000,000; that these facts were well known to the several assessors and other taxing officers throughout the state, but that the moneyed capital referred to, other than the said capital of the national and state banks, was purposely omitted from assessment and taxation in pursuance of an agreement entered into before April 1, 1891, between the assessors of the several counties, based upon an opinion rendered by the Attorney General of the state advising such omission; that this omission necessarily operated as a discrimination in favor of the other moneyed capital in the hands of individual citizens of the state and against shares of stock of the national banking corporations located within the state, and necessarily resulted in the taxation of the shares of the national banks at a greater rate than other moneyed capital in the hands of the individual citizens of the state.

Page 166 U. S. 443

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