PALMER v. McMAHON, Receiver of Taxes.

133 U.S. 660

10 S.Ct. 324

33 L.Ed. 772

McMAHON, Receiver of Taxes.1

March 3, 1890.

[Statement of Case from pages 660-665 intentionally omitted]

Wm. H. Field, for plaintiff in error.

David J. Dean, for defendant in error.

Mr. Chief Justice FULLER, after stating the facts as above, delivered the opinion of the court.


We are bound by the decision of the court of appeals of the state of New York adversely to the plaintiff in error, as to failure to comply with the state statute in relation to the method of procedure, form of assessment, oath of assessors, etc., in respect to which it may be further remarked that the attack in this case is in its nature collateral. Stanley v. Supervisors, 121 U. S. 535, 7 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1234; Supervisors v. Stanley, 105 U. S. 305. We proceed to examine, therefore, whether the assessment was invalid because the statute under which it was laid contravened the constitution or laws of the United States, and whether the proceedings authorized by chapter 230 of the Laws of 1843 operated to deprive the citizen of liberty or property without due process of law. Section 5219 of the Revised Statutes, title 62, 'National Banks,' reads as follows: 'Nothing herein shall prevent all the shares in any association from being included in the valuation of the personal property of the owner or holder or such shares, in assessing taxes imposed by authority of the state within which the association is located, but the legislature of each state may determine and direct the manner and place of taxing all the shares of national banking associations located within the state, subject only to the two restrictions that the taxation shall not be at a greater rate than is assessed upon other moneyed capital in the hands of individual citizens of such state, and that the shares of any national banking association owned by nonresidents of any state shall be taxed in the eity or town where the bank is located, and not elsewhere. Nothing herein shall be construed to exempt the real property of associations from either state county, or municipal taxes, to the same extent, according to its value, as other real property is taxed.' CHAPTER 596 OF THE LAWS OF NEW YORK OF 1880 is entitled 'an Act to pRoviDe for the taxation of banks and of moneyed capital engaged in the business of banking, receiving deposits, or otherwise;' and its third section reads thus: 'The stockholders in every bank, banking association, or trust company, organized under the authority of this state, or of the United States, shall be assessed and taxed on the value of their shares of stock therein. Said shares shall be included in the valuation of the personal property of such stockholders in the assessment of taxes at the place, city, town, or ward where such bank, banking association, or trust company is located, and not elsewhere, whether the said stockholder reside in said place, city, town, or ward, or not; but in the assessment of said shares each stockholder shall be allowed all the deductions and exemptions allowed by law in assessing the value of other taxable personal property owned by individual citizens of this state, and the assessment or taxation shall not be at a greater rate than is made or assessed upon other moneyed capital in the hands of individual citizens of this state. In making such assessment there shall also be deducted from the value of such shares such sum as is in the same proportion to such value as is the assessed value of the real estate of the bank, banking association, or trust company, and in which any portion of their capital is invested, in which said shares are held, to the whole amount of the capital stock of such bank, banking association, or trust company. Nothing herein contained shall be held or construed to exempt the real estate of banks, banking associations, or trust companies from either state, county, or municipal taxes; but the same shall be subject to state, county, municipal, and other taxation, to the same extent and rate, and in the same manner, according to its value, as other real estate is taxed.' 1 Laws N. Y. 1880, pp. 888, 889.


We have decided that so much of the capital of national and state banks as is in vested in United States securities cannot be subjected to state taxation, (People v. Commissioners, 2 Black, 620; Bank Tax Case, 2 Wall. 200,) but that shares of bank-stock may be taxed in the hands of their individual owners at their actual instead of their par value, (People v. Commissioners, 94 U. S. 415; Hepburn v. School Directors, 23 Wall. 480,) without regard to the fact that part or the whole of the capital of the corporation might be so invested, (Van Allen v. Assessors, 3 Wall. 573; Bradley v. People, 4 Wall. 459; People v. Commissioners, Id. 244,) and that, under acts permitting the deduction of debts from the value of all a person's taxable property, such deduction must be permitted from the value of such shares, (People v. Weaver, 100 U. S. 539, 546,) but that a statute is not void because it does not provide for a deduction, nor is the assessment void if deductions are not made, but voidable only, (Supervisors v. Stanley, 105 U. S. 305.) We have also held that individual instances of omission or undervaluation cannot be relied on to invalidate an assessment, (Supervisors v. Stanley, supra,) and that, because a state statute does not provide for the taxation of shares in corporations other than banks, it does not follow that the tax on moneyed capital invested in bank-shares is at a greater rate than that of the moneyed capital of individual citizens invested in other corporations, nor are the shareholders in national banks discriminated against because the taxation of such other corporations is arrived at under a separate system, (Bank v. New York, 121 U. S. 138, 7 Sup. Ct. Rep. 826.) In this last case the assessment was made in pursuance of section 312 of an act of the legislature of the state of New York passed July 1, 1882, entitled 'An act to revise the statutes of this state relating to banks, banking and trust companies.' which section is identical with section 3 of the act of 1880, except that trust companies are omitted in the act of 1882, and a provision in relation to notice is added at the end of the section. The court held as follows: 'The main purpose of congress in fixing limits to state taxation of investments in shares of national banks was to render it impossible for the state, in levying such a tax, to create and foster an unequal and unfriendly competition by favoring institutions or individuals carrying on a similar business, and operations and investments of like character. The term 'moneyed capital,' as used in Rev. St. § 5219, respecting state taxation of shares in national banks, embraces capital employed in national banks, and capital employed by individuals, when the object of their business is the making of profit by the use of their moneyed capital as money, as in banking, as that business is defined in the opinion of the court; but it does not include moneyed capital in the hands of a corporation, even if its business be such as to make its shares moneyed capital when in the hands of individuals, or if it invests its capital in securities payable in money. The mode of taxation adopted by the state of New York in reference to its corporations, excluding trust companies and savings banks, does not operate in such a way as to make the tax assessed upon shares of national banks at a greater rate than that imposed upon other moneyed capital in the hands of individual citizens.' The conclusions there announced, and the reasoning by which they are supported, are decisive in the disposition of the errors assigned on behalf of the plaintiff in error on the first branch of this case. The assessment was not void because in contravention of the constitution or laws of the United States.


But it is argued that chapter 230 of the Laws of New York of 1843 is unconstitutional as depriving the plaintiff in error of liberty and property without due process of law, and of the equal protection of the laws, in violation of the fourteenth amendment to the constitution of the United States. That amendment provides that no state 'shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.' It is insisted that Palmer had no notice, and no opportunity to be heard, or to confront or cross-examine the witnesses for the taxing authorities, or to subpoena witnesses in his own behalf, and had not otherwise the protection afforded in a judicial trial upon the merits. The phrase 'due process of law' does not necessarily mean a judicial proceeding. 'The nation from whom we inherit the phrase 'due process of law," said this court, speaking by Mr. Justice MILLER, 'has never relied upon the courts of justice for the collection of her taxes, though she passed through a successful revolution in resistance to unlawful taxation.' McMillen v. Anderson, 95 U. S. 37, 41. The power to tax belongs exclusively to the legislative branch of the government, and when the law provides for a mode of confirming or contesting the charge imposed, with such notice to the person as is appropriate to the nature of the case, the assessment cannot be said to deprive the owner of his property without due process of law. Spencer v. Merchant, 125 U. S. 345, 8 Sup. Ct. Rep. 921; Walston v. Nevin, 128 U. S. 578, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 192. The imposition of taxes is in its nature administrative, and not judicial, but assessors exercise quasi judicial powers in arriving at the value; and opportunity to be heard should be and is given under all just systems of taxation according to value. It is enough, however, if the law provides for a board of revision authorized to hear complaints respecting the justice of the assessment, and prescribes the time during which, and the place where, such complaints may be m de. Hagar v. Reclamation Dist., 111 U.S. 701, 710, 4 Sup. Ct. Rep. 663. The law of New York gave opportunity for objection before the tax commissioners, (Laws N. Y. 1859, c. 302, § 10, p. 681;) and the plaintiff in error appeared, and obtained a large deduction from the original valuation. It dissatisfied with the final action of the commissioners, he could have had that action reviewed on certiorari, (Laws N. Y. 1859, c. 302, § 20, p. 684; People v. Commissioners, 4 Wall. 244;) but he did not avail himself of this remedy. The proceeding here was purely an executive process to collect the tax after the liability of the party was finally fixed. Collection by distress and seizure of person is of very ancient date (Murray's Lessee v. Land Co., 18 How. 272;) and counsel for defendant in error cites many English statutes, commencing with the twelfth year of Henry VII., (chapter 13,) which in their essential features resemble the New York law upon the subject, one in 6 Henry VIII., (chapter 26,) being strikingly like it. 2 St. of the Realm, 644; 3 St. of the Realm, 156, 230, 516, 812; 4 St. of the Realm, 176, 334, 385, 744, 991, 1108, 1247; 5 St. of the Realm, 9, 700; 7 St. of the Realm, 567. Under the act of 1843, commitment is not resorted to until other means of collection have failed, and then only upon a showing of property possessed, not accessible to levy, but enabling the owner to pay if he chooses; this constituting such misconduct as justifies the order. That law had been in existence for more than 40 years at the time of this proceeding. We do not regard the collection in this way, founded on necessity, and so long recognized by the state of New York as to be justifiably resorted to under the circumstances detailed in the act, and operating alike on all persons and property similarly situated, as within the inhibitions of the fourteenth amendment. The judgment is affirmed.


BLATCHFORD, J., did not take any part in the decision of this case.


Affirming 6 N. E. Rep. 400.

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