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U.S. Supreme Court

Southern Pacific Co. v. Kentucky, 222 U.S. 63 (1911)

Southern Pacific Co. v. Kentucky

No. 247

Argued October 11, 12, 1911

Decided November 13, 1911

222 U.S. 63


An artificial situs for purposes of taxation is not acquired by the enrollment of a vessel at a port or the marking of that port on the stern, under §§ 4141 and 4178, Rev.Stat., as amended by the Act of June 23, 1874, 18 Stat. 252, c. 467.

The taxable situs of a vessel which has no permanent location within chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 222 U. S. 64

another jurisdiction is the domicile of the owner. Ayer & Lord Tie Co. v. Kentucky, 202 U. S. 49, followed, and Old Dominion Steamship Co. v. Virginia, 198 U. S. 299, distinguished.

A vessel is built to navigate the seas and not to stay in port, and it does not acquire a situs in one port, rather than another, by reason of frequently visiting the former. Hays v. Pacific Mail Steamship Co., 17 How. 596.

Although equality of burdens be the general standard sought to be obtained in taxation, the legality of the tax is not to be measured by the benefit received by the taxpayer, nor are protection and taxation necessarily correlative obligations.

The taxing power can only be interfered with on the grounds of unjustness where the abuse is flagrant and can be remedied by some affirmative principle of constitutional law.

A corporation organized under the law of a state and having its general office and holding its corporate meetings therein receives such protection from that state as affords a basis for taxing its intangible property which has not acquired a situs for taxation elsewhere.

The taxable situs of a vessel not permanently located within another jurisdiction does not depend upon whether the state which is the domicile of the owner possesses a port which such vessel could reach. Such a test would introduce elements of uncertainty dependent upon draft of the vessel and depth of the water.

Vessels engaged in coastwise trade belonging to a Kentucky corporation held to be taxable in Kentucky although enrolled in the port of New York, having the name of New York painted on their sterns, and never were at any port in Kentucky.

134 Ky. 417 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the power of the State of Kentucky to tax steamships belonging to a corporation of that state but enrolled at the port of New York, are stated in the opinion. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 222 U. S. 66

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