BOWMAN V. CONTINENTAL OIL CO., 256 U. S. 642 (1921)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bowman v. Continental Oil Co., 256 U.S. 642 (1921)

Bowman v. Continental Oil Company

No. 695

Argued April 14, 1921

Decided June 6, 1921

256 U.S. 642


A statute of New Mexico (Laws 1919, c. 93, p. 182), applicable to distributors of gasoline, imposes an excise of 2 cents for each gallon sold or used, and an annual license tax of $50.00, payable in advance, for each distributing station, place of business, or agency, and makes it a penal offense to carry on the business without paying the license tax.


(1) That the excise provision, assuming it intended to include both interstate and domestic transactions, is not therefore void in toto in its application to a distributor engaged in both, since, the subject matter being separable, full protection can be afforded by enjoining enforcement as to the interstate business. P. 256 U. S. 646.

(2) But that the license tax, falling with its prohibition upon the business as a whole, cannot constitutionally be applied where interstate and intrastate business necessarily are conducted indiscriminately at the same stations and by the same agencies. P. 256 U. S. 647.

(3) That gasoline imported by the distributor from another state, but used in the conduct of its business, loses its interstate character and may be subjected to the excise consistently with the Commerce Clause. P. 256 U. S. 648.

(4) That the tax upon the use is not a tax on tangible property, within the meaning of § 1 of Article VIII of the New Mexico Constitution, but in effect, as in name, an excise tax, and conforms to the requirement of that section that taxes shall be equal and uniform upon subjects of taxation of the same class. P. 256 U. S. 649.

(5) The excise tax, as applied to local sale and use of gasoline by a distributor, is consistent with the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 256 U. S. 649.


The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 256 U. S. 643

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