Privilege Taxes

A state law requiring importers to take out a license to sell imported goods amounts to an indirect tax on imports and hence is unconstitutional.2240 Likewise, a franchise tax upon foreign corporations engaged in importing nitrate and selling it in the original packages,2241 a tax on sales by brokers2242 and auctioneers2243 of imported merchandise in original packages, and a tax on the sale of goods in foreign commerce consisting of an annual license fee plus a percentage of gross sales,2244 have been held invalid. On the other hand, pilotage fees,2245 a tax upon the gross sales of a purchaser from the importer,2246 a license tax upon dealing in fish which, through processing, handling, and sale, have lost their distinctive character as imports,2247 an annual license fee imposed on persons engaged in buying and selling foreign bills of exchange,2248 and a tax upon the right of an alien to receive property as heir, legatee, or donee of a deceased person2249 have been held not to be duties on imports or exports.


Brown v. Maryland, 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 419, 447 (1827). [Back to text]
Anglo-Chilean Corp. v. Alabama, 288 U.S. 218 (1933). [Back to text]
Low v. Austin, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 29, 33 (1872). [Back to text]
Cook v. Pennsylvania, 97 U.S. 566, 573 (1878). [Back to text]
Crew Levick Co. v. Pennsylvania, 245 U.S. 292 (1917). [Back to text]
Cooley v. Board of Wardens, 53 U.S. (12 How.) 299, 313 (1851). [Back to text]
Waring v. The Mayor, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 110, 122 (1869). See also Pervear v. Massachusetts. 72 U.S. (5 Wall.) 475, 478 (1867); Schollenberger v. Pennsylvania, 171 U.S. 1, 24 (1898). [Back to text]
Gulf Fisheries Co. v. MacInerney, 276 U.S. 124 (1928). [Back to text]
Nathan v. Louisiana, 49 U.S. (8 How.) 73, 81 (1850). [Back to text]
Mager v. Grima, 49 U.S. (8 How.) 490 (1850). [Back to text]