Collection of Taxes.

States may undertake a variety of meth-ods to collect taxes. For instance, collection of an inheritance tax may be expedited by a statute requiring the sealing of safe deposit boxes for at least ten days after the death of the renter and obliging the lessor to retain assets found therein sufficient to pay the tax that may be due the state.510 A state may compel retailers to collect such gasoline taxes from consumers and, under penalty of a fine for delinquency, to remit monthly the amounts thus collected.511 In collecting personal income taxes, most states require employers to deduct and withhold the tax from the wages of employees.512

States may also use various procedures to collect taxes from prior tax years. To reach property that has escaped taxation, a state may tax estates of decedents for a period prior to death and grant proportionate deductions for all prior taxes that the personal representative can prove to have been paid.513 In addition, the Court found no violation of property rights when a state asserts a prior lien against trucks repossessed by a vendor from a carrier (1) accruing from the operation by the carrier of trucks not sold by the vendors, either before or during the time the carrier operated the vendors’ trucks, or (2) arising from assessments against the carrier, after the trucks were repossessed, but based upon the carrier’s operations preceding such repossession. Such lien need not be limited to trucks owned by the carrier because the wear on the highways occasioned by the carrier’s operation is in no way altered by the vendor’s retention of title.514

As a state may provide in advance that taxes will bear interest from the time they become due, it may with equal validity stipulate that taxes which have become delinquent will bear interest from the time the delinquency commenced. Further, a state may adopt new remedies for the collection of taxes and apply these remedies to taxes already delinquent.515 After liability of a taxpayer has been fixed by appropriate procedure, collection of a tax by distress and seizure of his person does not deprive him of liberty without due process of law.516 Nor is a foreign insurance company denied due process of law when its personal property is distrained to satisfy unpaid taxes.517

The requirements of due process are fulfilled by a statute which, in conjunction with affording an opportunity to be heard, provides for the forfeiture of titles to land for failure to list and pay taxes thereon for certain specified years.518 No less constitutional, as a means of facilitating collection, is an in rem proceeding, to which the land alone is made a party, whereby tax liens on land are foreclosed and all preexisting rights or liens are eliminated by a sale under a decree.519 On the other hand, although the conversion of an unpaid special assessment into both a personal judgment against the owner as well as a charge on the land is consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment,520 a judgment imposing personal liability against a nonresident taxpayer over whom the state court acquired no jurisdiction is void.521 Apart from such restraints, however, a state is free to adopt new remedies for the collection of taxes and even to apply new remedies to taxes already delinquent.522


National Safe Deposit Co. v. Stead, 232 U.S. 58 (1914). back
Pierce Oil Corp. v. Hopkins, 264 U.S. 137 (1924). Likewise, a tax on the tangible personal property of a nonresident owner may be collected from the custodian or possessor of such property, and the latter, as an assurance of reimbursement, may be granted a lien on such property. Carstairs v. Cochran, 193 U.S. 10 (1904); Hannis Distilling Co. v. Baltimore, 216 U.S. 285 (1910). back
The duty thereby imposed on the employer has never been viewed as depriving him of property without due process of law, nor has the adjustment of his system of accounting been viewed as an unreasonable regulation of the conduct of business. Travis v. Yale & Towne Mfg. Co., 252 U.S. 60, 75, 76 (1920). back
Bankers Trust Co. v. Blodgett, 260 U.S. 647 (1923). back
International Harvester Corp. v. Goodrich, 350 U.S. 537 (1956). back
League v. Texas, 184 U.S. 156 (1902). back
Palmer v. McMahon, 133 U.S. 660, 669 (1890). back
Scottish Union & Nat’l Ins. Co. v. Bowland, 196 U.S. 611 (1905). back
King v. Mullins, 171 U.S. 404 (1898); Chapman v. Zobelein, 237 U.S. 135 (1915). back
Leigh v. Green, 193 U.S. 79 (1904). back
Davidson v. City of New Orleans, 96 U.S. 97, 107 (1878). back
Dewey v. City of Des Moines, 173 U.S. 193 (1899). back
League v. Texas, 184 U.S. 156, 158 (1902). See also Straus v. Foxworth, 231 U.S. 162 (1913). back