Dandelet v. Smith

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

85 U.S. 642

Dandelet  v.  Smith

ERROR to the Circuit Court for the District of Maryland; the case being thus:By different Internal Revenue Acts a tax was laid on brewers, by which they were made liable thus:

From September, 1862, to March 1st, 1863, $1 00 per bbl. [1]

From March 1st, 1863, to March 31st, 1864, 60 per bbl. [2]

From April 1st, 1864, 1 00 per bbl. [3]

And after the 30th of June, 1864, a penalty of 50 cents was added where the return was erroneous because of refusal or neglect.

By the Internal Revenue Act of June 30th, 1864 [4] (section 20), the assessors were to make out lists containing the names of persons residing in their respective districts, and having property liable to tax, together with the sums payable by each, which lists the assessors were to send to the collectors.

The Internal Revenue Act of July 13th, 1866, [5] enacted further (by its ninth section):

'The assessor may, from time to time, or at any time within fifteen months from the time of the passage of this act, or from the time of the delivery of the to the collector as aforesaid, enter on any monthly or special list, . . . the names of the persons or parties, in respect to whose returns as aforesaid there has been or shall be any omission, undervaluation, understatement, or false or fraudulent statement, together with the amounts for which such persons or parties may be liable, over and above the amount for which they may have been, or shall be, assessed upon any return, or returns made as aforesaid, and shall certify or return said list to the collector as required by law.'

This same act [6] of 1866 changed the mode of assessing and collecting the tax on malt liquors, and made the tax on them after the 1st of September, 1866, payable by stamps. And an act of March, 1867, by its fifth section [7] enacted:

'That if the manufacturer of any article upon which a tax is required to be paid by means of a stamp, shall have sold or removed for sale any such articles, without the use of the proper stamp, in addition to the penalties now imposed . . . it shall be the duty of the assessor . . . upon such information as he can obtain, to estimate the amount of the tax which has been omitted to be paid, and to make an assessment therefor, and certify the same to the collector; and the subsequent proceedings for collection shall be in all respects like those for the collection of taxes upon manufactures and productions.'

In this state of the law Dandelet, a brewer, in Baltimore, from the year 1862 had made monthly statements or returns to the assessor of what beer he admitted that he made, and these were delivered to the collector. In August, 1867, the assessor made an assessment for alleged deficiencies, the same being in the following form:

F. Dandelet's Assessment.

Deficiency from Sept. 1, '62, to Feb. 28, '63, 522 bbls. @ $1, $522 00

Deficiency from March 1, '63, to March 31, '64, 922 bbls. @ 60 c., 555 00

Deficiency from April 1, '64, to June 30, '64, 216 bbls. @ $1, 216 00

Deficiency from July 1, '64, to April 20, '67, 1425 bbls. @ $1, 1425 00

Fifty cents penalty on $1425, 712 50

$3430 50

This assessment was entered on the monthly list for August, 1867, delivered to one Smith as collector, and after the remission of the penalty of $712.50, the balance was paid under protest. An appeal was duly made by Dandelet to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and was dismissed, after which this suit was brought to recover back the tax paid; and being tried by the court, judgment was given for the defendant. That judgment it was which was now brought here for review.

Messrs. G. C. Maunde and J. C. King, for the plaintiff in error:

First. The assessment is void upon its face. Even if the assessor had authority to reassess for the whole term intervening between September, 1862, and April 20th, 1867, he had no right to divide the term arbitrarily, as he has done. He should have reassessed month by month, indicating the deficiency for each month, so as to make his reassessment coincide in time with the monthly returns of the brewer. The ninth section of the act of July 13th, 1866, was obviously designed to give to the brewer the privilege of knowing which one of his monthly returns was asserted by the assessor to be deficient, and the amount of the deficiency. The accusation of the assessor would then be so specific as to admit of a defence; but how can the brewer defend himself against a reassessment so arbitrary and sweeping in point of time as the one made in this case?

Second. If the section referred to embraces brewers then the reassessment is void, because it disregarded the fifteen months limitation clause contained therein. Instead of confinding himself, as he was bound by the law to do, to fifteen months, the assessor in this case covered by his reassessment a term of nearly five years.

Third. But the section does not refer at all to the tax assessed upon brewers. This section only contemplates those persons whose duty it was, under the law, to make returns of what they made. But after September 1st, 1866, brewers were to pay by stamps, and as during that term Dandelet made no returns, and was not required by law to make them, but paid his tax by stamps, this reassessment was unauthorized.

Mr. G. H. Williams, Attorney-General, and Mr. S. F. Phillips, Solicitor-General, contra.


12 Stat. at Large, 450.


Ib. 723.


14 Id. 164.


13 Stat. at Large, 229.


14 Id. 104.


Sections 52-58.


14 Stat. at Large, 472.


Section 20, as amended by act of July 13th, 1866, 14 Stat. at Large, 104.


14 Stat. at Large, 742.


^1  12 Stat. at Large, 450.

^2  Ib. 723.

^3  14 Id. 164.

^4  13 Stat. at Large, 229.

^5  14 Id. 104.

^6  Sections 52-58.

^7  14 Stat. at Large, 472.

^8  Section 20, as amended by act of July 13th, 1866, 14 Stat. at Large, 104.

^9  14 Stat. at Large, 742.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).