BUCK V. BEACH, 206 U. S. 392 (1907)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Buck v. Beach, 206 U.S. 392 (1907)

Buck v. Beach

No. 14

Argued March 22, 1907

Decided May 27, 1907

206 U.S. 392


The old rule of mobilia sequuntur personam has been modified so that the owner of personal property may be taxed on its account at its situs although not his residence or domicil; but the mere presence of notes within a state which is not the residence or domicil of the owner does not bring the debts of which they are the written evidence within the taxing jurisdiction of that state, and a tax thereon by that state is illegal and void under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

An attempt to escape proper taxation in one state on the debt represented by a note does not confer jurisdiction on another state, not the residence or domicil of the owner, to tax the note on account of its mere presence therein.

Mortgage notes made and payable in Ohio and secured by mortgages on property in that state, the owner whereof resides in New York, are not taxable in Indiana because they are therein for safekeeping.

Judgment against the plaintiff in error (who was defendant below) was recovered in a state circuit court in Indiana, which was affirmed by the supreme court of the state (164 Ind. 37), and the plaintiff in error brings the case here to review that judgment. The predecessor of the defendant in error, being at the time Treasurer of Tippecanoe County, in the State of Indiana, brought this action in 1897 against the plaintiff in error to subject funds in his hands to the payment of taxes alleged to be due from the estate of one Job M. Nash, deceased, which taxes had been assessed in above county and state in 1894, after the death of Nash, on personal property of the deceased that

Page 206 U. S. 393

had been omitted from the tax list in his lifetime, during the years 1881 to 1893, both inclusive.

The point in dispute between the parties relates to the assessment for omitted property on what are called the"Ohio notes," the plaintiff in error insisting that such assessment was illegal as beyond the jurisdiction of the state to impose.

The material facts are not really in dispute. It appears that Nash died in 1893, at that time, and for more than twenty years prior thereto, a resident of the City and State of New York. He left a will which was admitted to probate in Hamilton County, Ohio, and his executors qualified there. They thereafter refused to pay the tax imposed upon the Ohio notes in Indiana. By the terms of the will, a trust was created, and part of the personal property constituting such trust (more than enough to pay the taxes in dispute) was turned over to James Buck, plaintiff in error and one of the two trustees named in the will. He resided in Lafayette, in the State of Indiana, and the other trustee resided in Cincinnati, in the State of Ohio. From this fund, in the hands of Buck, the defendant in error asked to have the taxes paid which had been assessed, as above stated, and which he claimed were due the state. This was refused, and this action was thereupon commenced.

A former action had been brought by the trustees for relief by injunction against the predecessor of the defendant in error to enjoin him from seizing upon or interfering with the trust fund for the payment of the taxes in dispute, and in that action the trustees had been unsuccessful. Buck v. Miller, 147 Ind. 586, decided in 1896.

The amount assessed on the estate of decedent upon the "Ohio notes" from 1884 to 1893, on account of omitted assessments during those years, aside from the penalties for nonpayment, was $36,357.71.

During the above-mentioned years, while the decedent was, as stated, a resident of the State of New York, he had a large sum of money invested in the States of Ohio and Indiana, approximating $750,000. The money loaned by him in Ohio

Page 206 U. S. 394

was evidenced by Ohio notes, made by the borrowers, who were residents of Ohio, the payment of the money borrowed being secured by mortgages on lands situated in Ohio. The moneys loaned in Ohio were loaned through an agent of Mr. Nash, residing in Cincinnati. The notes were dated and payable in Cincinnati, to the order of Mr. Nash, but were not indorsed by him, and all renewals and payments on account of them were made to his agent in Cincinnati. All moneys paid upon or by reason of these notes were deposited in a bank in Cincinnati to the credit of Mr. Nash, and no part thereof was sent to Indiana. The Cincinnati agent commenced loaning decedent's money about 1860, and, upon the removal of decedent to New York in 1870, and until his death, in 1893, the agent made investments on decedent's behalf in Ohio, collected the principal and interest upon his mortgage loans, and had general charge of his financial interests in that state.

James Buck was the agent of decedent at Lafayette, in the State of Indiana, for many years preceding the death of Mr. Nash. The Ohio notes were sent to him from Cincinnati by the agent there, during the years in question, together with the mortgages securing the payment of the notes, and they were kept in a safe at Lafayette, Indiana, by Mr. Buck, but no business was transacted in regard to them, nor any use made of them in Indiana otherwise than that, a short time before the interest on or principal of the notes became due, they were sent to the Ohio agent to have the interest payments made to him indorsed upon them, or to be delivered up if the principal were paid.

Nothing else was done in Indiana in regard to the notes except that, a few days prior to the first day of April in each year (which is the day upon which assessments for taxes are, by law, made in the State of Indiana), Mr. Buck sent the notes and mortgages to the Ohio agent, and a few days subsequent to that day in each year, the same were returned by the Ohio agent to Mr. Buck, who retained them in his possession.

When the Ohio notes and mortgages were sent from Cincinnati

Page 206 U. S. 395

to Mr. Buck by the Ohio agent, Mr. Buck made a record of their receipt in a book kept by him for that purpose, showing the dates and amounts of the notes and when due, and whenever payment or renewal of said notes was reported by the Ohio agent to the Indiana agent, he made entries of the facts in the register kept by him.

Mr. Buck also had possession of the notes and mortgages given to Mr. Nash for moneys loaned in the State of Indiana, and such moneys were invested and reinvested in that state during these years, and the taxes thereon were duly paid.

Mr. Buck transacted no business directly with the makers of the Ohio notes or mortgages, but, as stated, sent the notes to the Ohio agent for any business to be done in regard to them.

During Mr. Buck's agency, money was sometimes sent to him at Lafayette from Cincinnati to be invested, which money was placed on deposit in the bank in Indiana and loaned for Mr. Nash. Such moneys have nothing to do with the "Ohio notes" in issue in this action.

During these years, at least from 1886, Mr. Buck was authorized by virtue of a power of attorney from Mr. Nash to satisfy when due and when the money was paid all notes and mortgages; but, so far as the Ohio notes and mortgages were concerned, he never assumed to satisfy any of them or receive payment for the same. That was all done by the Ohio agent at Cincinnati.

Page 206 U. S. 399

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