Franchise Tax Board of California v. Alcan Aluminium Limited
Respondents-foreign corporations and sole shareholders of domestic corporations conducting business in California-brought separate suits against petitioner California Franchise Tax Board (Board) and certain of its employees, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on Foreign Commerce Clause grounds from the Board's method of determining the taxable income of respondents' subsidiaries that is allocable to California. The District Court dismissed the suits, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that respondents had alleged injuries sufficiently direct and independent of the injuries to their subsidiaries to confer both Article III and stockholder standing. It also held that respondents' federal actions were not barred by the Tax Injunction Act, which prohibits district courts from enjoining, suspending, or restraining the assessment, levy, or collection of any state tax where a plain, speedy, and efficient remedy may be had in state court.
1. Respondents have Article III standing. A judicial determination that the Board's accounting method is unconstitutional would prevent the actual financial injury to respondents that would be caused by a tax that illegally reduced the return on their investments in their subsidiaries and lowered the value of their stockholdings. Pp. 335-336.
2. Assuming that respondents have stockholder standing, their actions are nevertheless barred under the Tax Injunction Act. As sole shareholders, respondents have under their direction and control entities that, as actual taxpayers, possess a plain, speedy, and efficient remedy for their claims. Respondents' argument that even if they are treated as effectively having all of their subsidiaries' remedies, they do not have a plain, speedy, and efficient remedy because their subsidiaries would not be permitted to raise a Foreign Commerce Clause challenge to the tax, or at least could not base such a challenge on the allegedly distinct foreign commerce injuries suffered by their parent corporations, is rejected. Respondents have not demonstrated that their remedy is uncertain and thus inadequate to bar federal jurisdiction. Petitioners have represented that in no case currently pending in the state courts is the State claiming that the subsidiaries cannot raise foreign commerce claims, and no case has been cited in which the state courts have refused to hear similar claims; in fact, there is authority to the contrary. This Court cannot hold the Tax Injunction Act inapplicable on mere speculation. Pp. 336-341.
860 F.2d 688 (CA 7), reversed.
WHITE, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
Timothy G. Laddish, San Francisco, Cal., for petitioners.
Lawrence A. Salibra, II, for respondents.
Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.