« ForrigeFortsett »
Opinion of the Court.
tion for the years 1910, 1911, 1912, and 1913; report of the State Tax Commission of 1913; testimony of a member of the State Board of Equalization who served in the years 1908 to 1911, inclusive; affidavits of nearly 200 individuals from 47 counties in different parts of the State; and much besides. The evidence is too voluminous to be adequately reviewed within reasonable limits of space, and we content ourselves with saying that it comprises a body of official admissions and direct and circumstantial evidence from private and public sources that are unimpeached, fully sustaining the finding of the trial court that the great mass of property in the State, so far as assessed by the county assessors under the review of the county boards of supervisors and the State Board of Equalization-and this embraces all tangible property except railroad property and distilled spirits during a period of years prior to and including the year 1913, was intentionally, systematically, and notoriously assessed far below its actual value, and at certainly not exceeding 60 per cent. of its fair cash value. There is little to the contrary except the general presumptions arising from the statutory duty of assessors to assess at fair cash value and from the oath customarily required of individual taxpayers, and a large number of stereotyped affidavits made by former assessors to the effect that they endeavored to follow the law and assess all property at its fair cash value, and if any property was otherwise assessed it was unintentional and not pursuant to any agreement between the assessor and the taxpayer. In our judgment this does not materially detract from the convincing effect of plaintiff's proofs. The evidence is analyzed briefly in the opinion of the District Judge, 230 Fed. Rep. 227-231, and nothing more need be added to his comments upon it.
This disposes of all the points raised by defendants.
244 U. S.
(6) It is contended by plaintiff that the Board of Valuation and Assessment, in assessing plaintiff's franchise,
Opinion of the Court.
proceeded upon erroneous principles and adopted an improper method, not only in failing to equalize the assessment so as to make it conform to the basis generally adopted by other assessing officers in assessing other kinds of property, but also in failing to follow the course prescribed by the Kentucky statute; and that with respect to its complaint in this regard the decree of the District Court gave inadequate relief.
In order to pass upon this contention, we must consider the nature of the so-called "franchise tax," the method prescribed by the statute for valuing the franchise, the method that was pursued by the Board, and the manner in which the District Court dealt with it.
The statutory provisions are in §§ 4077-4081, Ky. Stats., the material portions of which are set forth in the margin.1
1 § 4077. (1) Franchise-assessment of. Every railway company or corporation, . also every other corporation, company or association having or exercising any special or exclusive privilege or franchise not allowed by law to natural persons, or performing any public service, shall, in addition to the other taxes imposed on it by law, annually pay a tax on its franchise to the State, and a local tax thereon to the county, incorporated city, town or taxing district, where its franchise may be exercised. The Auditor, Treasurer and Secretary of State are hereby constituted a board of valuation and assessment for fixing the value of said franchise, except as to turnpike companies, which are provided for in § 1  of subdivision 4 of this article, The Auditor shall be chairman of said board, and shall convene the same from time to time, as the business of the board may require. It shall be the duty of the Attorney-General, when requested by the board of valuation and assessment, to attend said board at its meetings and advise with same in its proceedings.
§ 4078. (2) Corporations to report to Auditor to determine value of franchise. In order to determine the value of the franchises mentioned in the next preceding section, shall, annually, between the thirtieth day of June and the first day of October, make and deliver to the Auditor of Public Accounts of this State a statement, verified by its president, cashier, secretary, treasurer, manager, or other chief officer or agent, in such form as the Auditor may prescribe, showing the following facts, viz.: the name and principal place of business of the cor
Opinion of the Court.
244 U. S.
They originated in the first General Assembly after the new Constitution, being §§ 1 to 5 of Article III of Chap. 103 (November 11, 1892; Acts 1891-1893, p. 299), which were amended by Chap. 217 of the same session (June 9, 1893, p. 990), by Act of March 29, 1902 (c. 128, Acts 1902, pp. 281, 305-309), and by Act of March 15, 1906 (c. 22, Laws 1906, pp. 88, 126-130). One of the amendments, having to do with one of the questions we are to consider, will be mentioned below.
It will be observed that the values of franchises (except as to turnpike companies, otherwise provided for), are to be determined by the Board of Valuation and Assessment, which board, upon a consideration of information furnished to it by the corporation, and from such other
poration, company or association; the kind of business engaged in; the amount of capital stock, preferred and common; the number of shares of each; the amount of stock paid up; the par and real value thereof; the highest price at which such stock was sold at a bona fide sale within twelve months next before the thirtieth day of June of the year in which the statement is required to be made; the amount of surplus funds and undivided profits and the value of all other assets; the total amount of indebtedness as principal, the amount of gross or net earnings or income, including interest on investments, and incomes from all other sources for twelve months next preceding the thirtieth day of June of the year in which the statement is required; the amount and kind of tangible property in this State, and where situated, assessed, or liable to assessment in this State, and the fair cash value thereof, estimated at the price it would bring at a fair voluntary sale, and such other facts as the Auditor may require.
§ 4079. (3) Value of franchise-how determined-lines extend beyond State or county. Where the line or lines of any such corporation, company or association extend beyond the limits of the State or county, the statement shall, in addition to the other facts hereinbefore required, show the length of entire lines operated, owned, leased or controlled in this State, and in each county, incorporated city, town or taxing district, and the entire line operated, controlled, leased or owned elsewhere. If the corporation, company or association be organized under the laws of any other State or government or organized and incorporated in this State, but operating and conducting its business in
Opinion of the Court.
evidence as it may have, is to "fix the value of the capital stock of the corporation and from the amount thus fixed shall deduct the assessed value of all tangible property assessed in this State, or in the counties where situated. The remainder thus found shall be the value of its corporate franchise subject to taxation as aforesaid." It has been held by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and by this court, that the "capital stock of the corporation" includes its entire property of every kind and description, tangible and intangible, and that what is called its "corporate franchise" is the intangible property of the company in Kentucky. Henderson Bridge Co. v. Commonwealth, 99 Kentucky, 623, 639, 641; Henderson Bridge Co. v. Kentucky, 166 U. S. 150, 154; Adams Express Co.
other States as well as in this State, the statement shall show the following facts in addition to the facts hereinbefore required: The gross and net income or earnings received in this State and out of this State, on business done in this State, and the entire gross receipts of the corporation, company or association in this State and elsewhere during the twelve months next before the thirtieth day of June of the year in which the assessment is required to be made. Provided, That said board, from said statement, and from such other evidence as it may have, if such corporation, company or association be organized under the laws of this State, shall fix the value of the capital stock of the corporation, company or association, as provided in the next succeeding section, and from the amount thus fixed shall deduct the assessed value of all tangible property assessed in this State, or in the counties where situated. The remainder thus found shall be the value of its corporate franchise subject to taxation as aforesaid.
§4080. (4) Foreign corporations-franchise-how determined. If the corporation, company or association be organized under the laws of any other State or government, except as provided in the next section, the board shall fix the capital stock in this State by capitalizing the net income derived in this State, or it shall fix the capital stock as hereinbefore provided, and will determine from the amount of the gross receipts of such corporation, company or association in this State and elsewhere, the proportion which the gross receipts of this State, within twelve months next before the thirtieth day of June of the year in which the assessments were made, bears to the entire gross
v. Kentucky, 166 U. S. 171, 180; Louisville Tobacco Warehouse Co. v. Commonwealth, 106 Kentucky, 165, 167; Marion National Bank v. Burton, 121 Kentucky, 876, 888.
The findings of an official body such as the Board of Valuation and Assessment, made as was the case here— after a hearing and upon notice to the taxpayer, are quasijudicial in their character, and are not to be set aside or disregarded by the courts unless it is made to appear that the body proceeded upon an erroneous principle or adopted an improper mode of estimating the value of the franchise, or unless fraud appears. Pittsburgh &c. Railway Co. v. Backus, 154 U. S. 421, 435-436; Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Ry. Co. v. Babcock, 204 U. S. 585, 596. In this case there is no showing of fraud, the contention being that the Board departed from the mode prescribed by the statute. If they did this, or if they proceeded in disregard of rights secured to the taxpayer by the state or federal Constitution, of course they proceeded upon an
receipts of the company, the same proportion of the value of the entire capital stock or the capitalizing of the net earnings in this State, less the assessed value of the tangible property assessed, or liable to assessment, in this State, shall be the correct value of the corporate franchise of such corporation, company or association for taxation in this State.
§ 4081. (5) Interstate carrier-franchise-how fixed. If the corporation organized under the laws of this State, or of some other State government, be a railroad . . . company or a corporation performing any other public service, the lines of which extend beyond the limits of the State, the said board will fix the value of the capital stock as hereinbefore provided, and that proportion of the value of the ca ital stock which the length of the lines operated, owned, leased, or controlled in this State, bears to the total length of the lines owned, leased or controlled in this State and elsewhere, shall be considered in fixing the value of the corporate franchise of such corporation liable for taxation in this State; and such corporate franchise shall be liable to taxation in each county, incorporated city, town or district through or into which such lines pass, or are operated, in the same proportion that the length of the line in such county, city, town or district bears to the whole length of lines in this State;