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U.S. Supreme Court

Northwestern Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Wisconsin, 247 U.S. 132 (1918)

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Wisconsin

No. 240

Argued March 22, 1918

Decided May 20, 1918

247 U.S. 132


The "license fee" laid by Wisconsin on domestic "level premium" life insurance companies doing business in the state of 3% of the gross income from all sources during the year, except rents from real estate and premiums collected outside Wisconsin on policies of nonresidents, as construed by the supreme court of the state, is a commutation tax in lieu of all other taxes on the personal property of the companies taxable in Wisconsin.

Assuming, but not deciding, that the foreign investment business of such a company, involving shipments of securities, correspondence, etc., beyond the state, amounts to interstate commerce, such a tax casts no burden upon such commerce where the gross receipts are in effect used as a fair measure of the value of the property and franchise taxable, but not otherwise taxed, within the state.

A tax on life insurance business is not a tax on interstate commerce.

Page 247 U. S. 133

It is not an arbitrary discrimination against domestic life insurance corporations amounting to a denial of the equal protection of the law for a state to tax them by taking a percentage of their gross receipts, while exacting a fixed and comparatively light fee from similar foreign corporations for the privilege of doing local business of the same kind. Southern Ry. Co. v. Greene, 216 U. S. 400, distinguished.

Neither is such arbitrary discrimination involved in imposing a license or privilege tax upon domestic old-line level premium companies while exempting fraternal societies having lodge organizations and insuring only the lives of their own members.

163 Wis. 48 affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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