Pollock v. Farmers' Loan Traust Company
This was a bill filed by Charles Pollock, a citizen of the state of Massachusetts, on behalf of himself and all other stockholders of the defendant company similarly situated, against the Farmesr' Loan & Trust Company, a corporation of the state of New York, and its directors, alleging that the capital stock of the corporation consisted of $1,000,000, divided into 40,000 shares of the par value of $25 each; that the company was authorized to invest its assets in public stocks and bonds of the United States, of individual states, or of any incorporated city or county, or in such real or personal securities as it might deem proper; and also to take, accept, and execute all such trusts of every description as might be committed to it by any person or persons or any corporation, by grant, assignment, devise, or bequest, or by order of any court of record of New York, and to receive and take any real estate which might be the subject of such trust; that the property and assets of the company amounted to more than $5,000,000, or which at least $1,000,000 was invested in real estate owned by the company in fee, at least $2,000,000 in bonds of the city of New York, and at least $1,000,000 in the bonds and stocks of other corporations of the United States; that the net profits or income of the defendant company during the year ending December 31, 1894, amounted to more than the sum of $3,000,000 above its actual operation and business expenses, including lossess and interest on bonded and other indebtedness; that from its real estate the company derived an income of $50,000 per annum, after deducting all county, state, and municipal taxes; and that the company derived an income or profit of about $60,000 per annum fro its investments in municipal bonds.
It was further alleged that under and by virtue of the powers conferred upon the company it had from time to time taken and executed, and was holding and executing, numerous trusts committed to the company by many persons, copartnerships, unincorporated associations, and corpoa tions, by grant, assinment, devise, and bequest, and by orders of various courts, and that the company now held as trustee for many minors, individuals, corpartnerships, associations, and corporations, resident in the United States and elsewhere, many parcels of real estate situated in the various states of the United States, and amounting in the aggregate, to a value exceeding $5,000,000, the rents and income of which real estate collected and received by said defendant in its fiduciary capacity annually exceeded the sum of *200,000.
The bill also averred that complainant was, and had been since May 20, 1892, the owner and registered holder of 10 shares of the capital stock of the company, of a value exceeding the sum of $5,000; that the capital stock was divied among a large number of different persons, who, as such stockholders, constituted a large body; that the bill was filed for an object common to them all, and that he therefore brought suit not only in his own behalf as a stockholder of the company, but also as a representative of and on behalf of such of the other stockholders similarly situated and interested as might choose to intervene and become parties.
It was then alleged that the management of the stock, property, affairs, and concerns of the company was committed, under its acts of incorporation, to its directors, and charged that the company and a majority of its directors claimed and asserted that under and by virtue of the alleged authority of the provisions of an act of congress of the United States entitled 'An act to reduce taxation, to provide revenue for the government, and for other purposes,' passed August 15, 1894, the company was liable, and that they intended to pay, to the United States, before July 1, 1895, a tax of 2 per centum on the net profits of said company for the year ending December 31, 1894, above actual operating and business expenses, including the income derived from its real estate and its bonds of the city of New York; and that the directors claimed and asserted that a similar tax must be paid upon the amount of the incomes, gains, and profits, in excess of $4,000, of all minors and others for whom the company was acting in a fiduciary capacity. And, further, that the company and its directors had avowed their intention to make and file with the collector of internal revenue for the Second district of the city of New York a list, return, or statement showing the amount of the net income of the company received during the year 1894, as aforesaid, and likewise to make and render a list or return to said collector of internal revenue, prior to that date, of the amount of the income, gains and profits of all minors and other persons having incomes in excess of $3,500, for whom the company was acting in a fiduciary capacity.
The bill charged that the provisions in respect of said alleged income tax incorporated in the act of congress were unconstututional, null, and void, in that the tax was a direct tax in respect of the real estate held and owned by the company in its own right and in its fiduciary capacity as aforesaid, by being imposed upon the rents, issues, and profits os said real estate, and was likewise a direct tax in respect of its personal property and the personal property held by it for others for whom it acted in its fiduciary capacity as aforesaid, which direct taxes were not, in and by said act, apportioned among the several states, as required by section 2 of article 1 of the constitution; and that, if the income tax so incorporated in the act of congress aforesaid were held not to be a direct tax, nevertheless its provisions were unconstitutional, null, and void, in that they were not uniform throughout the United States, as required in and by section 8 of article 1 of the constitution of the United States, upon many grounds and in many particulars specifically set forth.
The bill further charged that the income-tax provisions of the act were likewise unconstitutional, in that they imposed a tax on incomes not taxable ud er the constitution, and likewise income derived from the stocks and bonds of the states of the United States, and counties and municipalities therein, which stocks and bonds are among the means and instrumentalities employed for carrying on their repective governments, and are not proper subjects of the taxing power of congress, and which states and their counties and muncipalities are independent of the general government of the United States, and the respective stocks and bonds of which are, together with the power of the states to borrow in any form, exempt from federal taxation.
Other grounds of unconstitutionality were assigned, and the violation of articles 4 and 5 of the constitution asserted.
The bill further averred that the suit was not a collusive one, to confer on a court of the United States jurisdiction of the case, of which it would not otherwise have cognizance and that complainant had requested the company and its directors to omit and to refuse to pay said income tax, and to contest the constiutionality of said act, and to refrain from voluntarily making lists, returns, and statements on its own behalf and on behalf of the minors and other persons for whom its was acting in a fiduciary capacity, and to apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to determine its liability under said act; but that the company and a majority of its directors, after a meeting of the directors, at which the matter and the request of complainant were formally laid before them for action, had rejused, and still refuse, and intend omitting, to comply with complainant's demand, and had resolved and determined and intended to comply with all and singular the provisions of the said act of congress, and to pay the tax upon all its net profits or income as aforesaid, including its rents from real estate and its income from municipal bonds, and a copy of the refusal of the company was annexed to the complaint.
It was also alleged that if the company and its directors, as they propered and had declared their intention to do, should pay the tax out of its gains, income, and profits, or out of the gains, income, and profits of the property held by it in its fiduciary capacity they will diminish the assets of the company and lessen the dividends thereon and the value of the shares; that voluntary compliance with the income-tax provisions would expose the company to a multiplicity of suits, not only by and on behalf of its numerous shareholders, but by and on behalf of numberous minors and others for whom it acts in a fiduciary capacity, and that such numerous suits would work irreparable injury to the business of the company, and subject it to great and irreparable damage, and to liability to the beneficiaries aforesaid, to the irreparable damage of complainant and all its shareholders.
The bill further averred that this was a suit of a civil nature in equity; that the matter in dispute exceeded, exclusive of costs, the sum of $5,000, and arose under the constitution or laws of the United States; and that there was furthermore a controversy between citizens of different states.
The prayer was that it might be adjudged and decreed that the said provisions known as the income tax incorporated in said act of congress passed August 15, 1894, are unconstitutional, null, and void; that the defendants be restrained from volunarily complying with the provisions of said act, and making the list, returns, and statements above referred to, or paying the tax aforesaid; and for general relief.
The defendants demurred on the ground of want of equity, and, the cause having been brought on to be heard upon the bill and demurrer thereto, the demurrer was sustained, and the bill of complaint dismissed, with costs, whereupon the record recited that the constitutionality of a law of the United States was drawn in question, and an appeal was allowed directly to this court.
An abstract of the act in question will be found in the margin. 
By the third clause of section 2 of article 1 of the constitt ion it was provided: 'Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.' This was amended by the second section of the fourteenth amendment, declared ratified July 28, 1868, so that the whole number of persons in each state should be counted, Indians not taxed excluded, and the provision, as thus amended, remains in force.
The acutal enumeration was prescribed to be made within three years after the first meeting of congrees, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as should be directed.
Section 7 requires 'all bills for raising revenue shall originate in the house or representatives.'
The first clause of section 8 reads thus: 'The congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.' And the third clause thus: 'To regulate commerce with foreigh nation, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.'
The fourth, fifth, and sixth clauses of section 9 are as follows:
'No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration hereinbefore directed to be taken.
'No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.
'No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another; nor shall vessels bount to, or from, one state, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another.'
It is also provided by the second clause of section 10 that 'no state shall, without consent of the congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws'; and, by the third clause, that 'no state shall, without the consent of congress, lay any duty of tonnage.'
The first clause of section 9 provides: 'The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the congress prior to the year one thousand and eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importations, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.'
Article 5 prescribes the mode for the amendment of the constitution, and concludes with this proviso: 'Provided, that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article.'
B. H. Bristow, Wm. D. Gurtrie, David Willcox, Charles Steele, and
[Argument of Counsel from pages 442-469 intentionally omitted] Assistant Attorney General Whitney, for the United States.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 469-513 intentionally omitted]
Herbert B. Turner, for appellee Farmers' Loan & Trust Company.
James C. Carter, Wm. C. Gulliver, and F. B. Candler, for appellee Continental Trust Company.
Attorney General Olney and
[Argument of Counsel from pages 513-532 intentionally omitted]
Jos. H. Choate, Charles F. Southmayd, for appellants Pollock and Hyde.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 532-553 intentionally omitted]
Mr. Chief Justice FULLER, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.
^1 By sections 27-37 inclusive of the act of congress entitled 'An act to reduce taxation, to provide revenue for the government, and for other purposes,' received by the president August 15, 1894, and which, not having been returned by him to the house in which it originated within the time prescribed by the constitution of the United States, became a law without approval (28 Stat. 509, c. 349), it was provided that from and after January 1, 1895, and until January 1, 1900, 'there shall be assessed, levied, collected, and paid annually upon the gains, profits, and income received in the preceding calendar year by every citizen of the United States, whether residing at home or abroad, and every person residing therein, whether said gains, profits, or income be derived from any kind of property, rents, inter-
est, dividends, or salaries, or from any profession, trade, emploument, or vocation carried on in the United States or elsewhere, or from any other source whatever, a tax of two per centum on the amount so derived over and above four thousand dollars, and a like tax shall be levied, collected, and paid annually upon the gains, profits, and income from all property owned and of every business, trade, or profession carried on in the United States by persons residing without the United States. * * *
'Sec. 28. That in estimating the gains, profits, and income of any person there shall be included all income derived from interest upon notes, bonds, and other securities, except such bonds of the United States the principal and interest of which are by the law of their issuance exempt from all federal taxation; profits realized within the year from sales of real estate purchased within two years previous to the close of the year for which income is estimated; interest received or accrued upon all notes, bonds, mortgages, or other forms of indebtedness bearing interest, whether paid or not, if good and collectible, less the interest which has become due from said person or which has been paid by him during the year; the amount of all premium on bonds, notes, or couponds; the amount of sales of live stock, sugar, cotton, wool, butter, cheese, pork, beef, mutton, or other meats, hay, and grain, or other vegetable or other productions, or other forms of indebtedness of the estate of such person, less the amount expended in the purchase or production of said stock or produce, and not including any part thereof consumed directly by the family; money and the value of all personal property acquired by gift or inheritance; all other gains, profits, and income derived from any source whatever except than portion of the salary, compensation, or pay received for services in the civil, military, naval, or other service of the United States, inclui ng senators, representatives, and delegates in congress, from which the tax has been deducted, and except that portion of any salary upon which the employer is required by law to withhold, and does withhold the tax and pays the same to the officer authorized to receive it. In computing incomes the necessary expenses actually incurred in carrying on any business, occupation, or profession shall be deducted and also all interest due or paid within the year by such person on existing indebtedness. And all national, state, county, school, and municipal taxes, not including those assessed against local benefits, paid within the year shall be deducted from the gains, profits, or income of the person who has actually paid the same, whether such person be owner, tenant, or mortgagor; also losses actually sustained during the year, incurred in trade or arising from fires, storms, or shipwreck, and not compensated stated for by insurance or otherwise, and debts ascertained to be worthless, but excluding all estimated depreciation of values and losses within the year on sales of real estate purchased within two years previous to the year for which income is estimated: Provided, that no deduction shall be made for any amount paid out for new buildings, permanent im-
provements, or betterments, made to increase the value of any property or estate: provided further, that only one deduction of four thousand dollars shall be made from the aggregate income of all the members of any family, composed of one or both parents, and one or more minor children, or husband and wife; that guardians shall be allowed to made a deduction in favor of each and every ward, except that in case where two or more wards are comprised in one family and have joint property interests, the aggregate deduction in their favor shall not exceed four thousand dollars: and provided further, that in cases where the salary or other compensation paid to any person in the employment or service of the United States shall not exceed the rate of four thousand dollars ner annum, or shall be by fees, or uncertain or irregular in the amount or in the time during which the same shall have accrued or been earned, such salary or other compensation shall be included in estimating the annual gains, profits, or income of the person to whom the same shall have been paid, and shall include that portion of any income or salary upon which a tax has not been paid by the employer, where the employer is required by law to pay on the excess over four thousand dollars: provided also, that in computing the income of any person, corporation, company, or association there shall not be included the amount received from any corporation, company, or association as dividends upon the stock of such corporation, company, or association if the tax of two per centum has been paid upon its net profits by said corporation, company, or association as required by this act.
'Sec. 29. That it shall be the duty of all persons of lawful age having an income of more than three thousand five hundred dollars for the taxable year, computed on the basis herein prescribed, to made and render a list or return, on or before the day provided by law, in such form and manner as may be directed by the commissioner of internal revenue, with the approval of the secreatary of the treasury, to the collector or a deputy collector of the district in which they reside, of the amount of their income, gains, and profits, as aforesaid; and all guardians and trustees, executors, administrators, agents, receivers, and all persons or corporations acting in any fiduciary capacity, shall make and render a list or return, as aforesaid, to the collector or a deputy collector of the district in which such person or corporation acting in a fiduciary capacity resides or does business, of the amount of income, gains, and profits of any minor or person for whom they act. but persons having less than three thousand five hundred dollars income are not required to make such report; and the collector or deputy collector, shall require every lit or return to verified by the oath or affirmation of the party rendering it, and may increase the amount of any list or return if he has reason to believe that the same is understated: and in case any such person having a taxable income shall neglect or refuse to make and render such list and return, or shall render a willfully false or fraudulent list or return, it shall be the duty of the
collector or deputy collector, to make such list, according to the best information he can obtain. by the examination of such person, or any other evidence, and to add fifty per centum as a penalty to the amount of the tax due on such list in all cases of willful neglect or refusal to make and render a list or return; and in all cases of a willfully false or fraudulent list or return having been rendered to add one hundred per centum as a penalty to the amount of tax ascertained to be due, the tax and the additions thereto as a penalty to be assessed and collected in the manner provided for in other cases of willful neglect or refusal to render a list or return. or of rendering a false or fraudulent return.' A proviso was added that any person or corporation might show that he or its ward had no taxable income, or that the same had been paid elsewhere, and the collector might exempt from the tax for that year. 'Any person or company, corporation, or association feeling aggrieved by the decision of of the deputy collector, in such cases may appeal to the collector of the district, and his decision thereon, unless reversed by the commissioner of internal revenue, shall be final. If dissatisfied with the decision of the collector such person or corporation, company, or assiciation may submit the case, with all the papers, to the commissioner of internal revenue for his decision, and may furnish the testimony of witnesses to prove any relevant facts having served notice to that effect upon the commissioner of internal revenue, as herein prescribed.' Provision was made for notice of time and place for taking testimony on both sides, and that no penalty should be assed until after notice.
By section 30, the taxes on incomes were made payable on or before July 1st of each year, and 5 per cent. penalty levied on taxes unpaid, and interest.
By section 31, any non-resident might receive the benefit of the exemptions provided for, and 'in computing income he shall include all income from every source, but unless he be a citizen of the United States he shall only pay on that part of the income which is derived from any source in the United States. In case such non-resident fails to file such statement, the collector of each district shall collect the tax on the income dervied from property situated in his district, subject to income tax, making no allowance for exemptions, and all property belonging to such non-resident shall be liable to distraint for tax: provided, that non-resident corporations shall be subject to the same laws as to tax as resident corporations, and the collection of the tax shall be made in the same manner as provided for collections of taxes against non-resident persons.'
'Sec. 32. That there shall be assessed, levied, and collected, except as herein otherwise provided, a tax of two per centum annually on the net profits or income above actual operating and business expenses, including expenses for materials pruchased for manufacture or bought for resale, losses, and interest on bonded and other indebtedness of all banks, banking institutions, trust companies, saving institutions, fire, marine, life, and other
insurance companies, railroad, canal, turnpike, canal navigation, slack water, telephone, telegraph, express, electric light, gas, water, street railway compainies, and all other corporations, companies, or associations doing business for profit in the United States, no matter how created and organized but not including partnerships.'
The tax is made payable 'on or before the first day of July in each year; and if the president or other chief officer of any corporation, company, or association, or in th case of any foreign corporation, company, or association, the resident manager or agent shall neglect or refuse to file with the collector of the internal revenue district in which said corporation, company, or association shall be located or be engaged in business, a statement verified by his oath or affirmation, in such form as shall be prescribed by the commissioner of internal revenue, with the approval of the secretary of the treamsury, showing the amount of net profits or income received by said corporation, comapny, or association during the whole calendar year last preceding the date of filing said statement as hereinafter required, the corporation, company, or association making default shall forfeit as a penalty the sum of one thousand dollars and two per centum on the amount of taxes due, for each month until the same is apid, the payment of said penalty to be enforced as provided in other cases of neglect and refusal to make return of taxes under the internal revenue laws.
'The net profits or income of all corporations, companies, or associations shall include the amounts paid to sharehoders, or carried to the account of any fund, or used for construction, enlargement of plant, or any other expenditure or investment paid from the net annual profits made or acquired by said corporations, companies, or associations.
'That nothing herein contained shall apply to states, counties, or municipalities; nor to corporations, companies, or associations organized and conducted solely for charitable, religious, or educational purposes, including fraternal beneficiary societies, orders, or associations operating upon the lodge system and providing for the payment of life, sick, accident, and other benefits to the members of such societies, orders, or associations and dependents of such members; nor to the stocks, shares, funds, or securities held by any fiduciary or trustee for charitable, religious, or educational purposes; nor to building and loan associations or companies which make loans only to their shareholders; nor to such savings banks, savings institutions or societies as shall, first, have no stockholders or members except depositors and no capital except deposits; secondly, shall not receive deposits to an agregate amount, in any one year, of more than one thousand dollars from the same depositor; thirdly, shall not allow an accumulation or total of deposits, by any one depositor, exceeding ten thousand dollars; foruthly, shall actually divide and distribute to its depositors, ratably to deposits, all the earnings over the necessary and proper expenses of such bank, institution, or society, except such as shall be applied to sur-
plus; fifthly, shall not possess, in any form, a surplus fund exceeding ten per centum of its agregate deposits; nor to such savings banks, savings institutions,#e shall be uniform throughout the United States.' And the third clause thus: 'To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.'
'Nor to any insurance company or association which conducts all its business solely upon the mutual plan, and only for the benefit of its policy holders or members, and having no capital stock and no stock or shareholders, and holding all its property in trust and in reserve for its policy holders or members; nor to that part of the business of any insurance company having a capital stock and stock and shareholders, which is conducted on the mutual plan, separate from its stock plan of insurance, and solely for the benefit of the policy holders and members insured on said mutual plan, and holding all the property belonging to and derived from said mutual part of its business in trust and reserve for the benefit of its policy holders and members insured on said mutual plan.
'That all state, county, municipal, and town taxes paid by corporations, companies, or associations, shall be included in the operating and business expenses of such corporations, companies, or associations.
'Sec. 33. That there shall be levied, collected, and paido n all salaries of officers, or payments for services to persons in the civil, military, naval, or other employment or service of the United States, including senators and representatives and delegates in congress, when exceeding the rate of four thousand dollars per annum, a tax of two per centum on the excess above the said four thousand dollars; and it shall be the duty of all paymasters and all disbursing officers under the government of the United States, or persons in the employ thereof, when making any payment to any officers or persons as aforesaid, whose compensation is determined by a fixed salary, or upon settling or adjusting the accounts of such officers or persons, to deduct and withhold the aforesaid tax of two per centum; and the pay roll, receipts, or account of officers or persons paying such tax as aforesaid shall be made to exhibit the fact of such payment. And it shall be the duty of the accounting officers of the treasury department, when auditing the accounts of any paymaster or disbursing officer, or any officer withholding his salary from moneys received by him, or when settling or adjusting the accounts of any such officer, to require evidence that the taxes mentioned in this section have been deducted and paid over to the treasurer of the United States, or other officer authorized to receive the same. Every corporation which pays to any employe a salary or compensation exceeding four thousand dollars per annum shall report the same to the collector or
deputy collector of his district and said employe shall pay thereon, subject to the exemptions herein provided for, the tax of two per centum on the excess of his salary over four thousand dollars: provided, that salaries due to sstate county, or municipal officers shall be exempt from the income tax herein levied.'
By section 34, sections 3167, 3172, 3173, and 3176 of the Revised Statutes of the United States as amended were amended so as to provide that it should be unalwful for the collector and other officers to make known, or to publish, amount or source of income, under penalty; that every collector should 'from tiem to time cause his deputies to proceed through every part of his district and inquire after and concerning all persons therein who are liable to pay any internal revenue tax, and all persons owning or having the care and management of any objects liable to pay any tax, and to make a list of such persons and enumberate said object'; that the tax returns must be made on or before the first Monday in March; that the collectors may make returns when particulars are furnished: that notice be given to absentees to render returns; that collectors may summon persons to produce books and testify concerning returns; that collectors may enter other districts to examine persons and books, and may make returns; and that penalties may be imposed on false returns.
By section 35 it was provided that corporations doing business for profit should make returns on or before the first Monday of March of each year 'of all the following matters for the whole calendar year last preceding the date of such return:
'First. The gross profits of such corporation, company, or association, from all kinds of business of every name and nature.
'Second. The expenses of such corporation, company, or association, exclusive of interest, annuities, and dividends.
'Third. The net profits of such corporation, company, or association, without allowance for interest, annuities, or dividends.
'Fourth. The amount paid on account of interest, annuities, and dividends, stated separately.
'Fifth. The amount paid in salaries of four thousand dollars or less to each person employed.
'Sixth. The amount paid in salaries of more than four thousand dollars to each person employed and the name and address of each of such persons and the amount paid to each.'
By section 36, that books of account should be kept by corporations as prescribed, and inspection thereof be granted under penalty.
By section 37 provision is made for receipts for taxes paid.
By a joint resolution of February 21, 1895, the time for making returns of income for the year 1894 was extended, and it was provided that 'in com-
puting incomes under said act the amounts necessarily paid for fire insurance premiums and for ordinary reparis shall be deducted'; and that 'in computing incomes under said act the amounts received as dividends upon the stock of any corporation, company or association shall not be included in case such dividends are also liable to the tax of two per centum upon the net profits of said corporation, company or association, although such tax may not have been actually paid by said corporation, company or association at the time of making returns by the person, corporation or association receiving such dividends, and returns or reports of the names and salaries of employes shall not be required from employers unless called for by the collector in order to verify the returns of employes.'