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U.S. Supreme Court

New Jersey Ins. Co. v. Division of Tax Appeals, 338 U.S. 665 (1950)

New Jersey Realty Title Insurance Co. v. Division of Tax Appeals

No. 147

Argued December 13, 1949

Decided February 6, 1950

338 U.S. 665


Under § 54:4-22 of the Revised Statutes of New Jersey, as amended by Laws of 1938, c. 245, a taxing district of the State levied against the intangible property of a stock insurance company an assessment for the taxable year 1945 in the amount of 15 percent of the company's paid-up capital and surplus, computed without deducting the principal amount of certain United States bonds and accrued interest thereon.

Held: the assessment was invalid as in conflict with § 3701 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, which provides that

"All stocks, bonds, Treasury notes, and other obligations of the United States, shall be exempt from taxation by or under State or municipal or local authority."

Pp. 338 U. S. 666-676.

(a) The tax authorized by the state statute, whether levied against capital and surplus less liabilities or against entire net worth, was, in practical operation and effect, a tax upon federal bonds. Pp. 338 U. S. 672-673.

(b) Tradesmens National Bank v. Oklahoma Tax Comm'n, 309 U. S. 560, and Educational Films Corp. v. Ward, 282 U. S. 379, distinguished. Pp. 338 U. S. 673-674.

(c) A tax on corporate capital measured by federal securities may be invalid even though imposed without discrimination against federal obligations. Pp. 338 U. S. 674-675.

(d) If the amount here assessed be viewed as levied exclusively on the corporation's net worth remaining after deduction of government bonds and interest, the assessment would be discriminatory because it would be levied at the rate of over 79 percent of the corporation's assessable valuation, rather than at the rate of 15 percent prescribed by the state statute. P. 338 U. S. 675.

(e) The result here reached is consonant with the legislative purpose of R.S. § 3701

"to prevent taxes which diminish in the slightest degree the market value or the investment attractiveness of obligations issued by the United States in an effort to secure necessary credit."

P. 338 U. S. 675. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 338 U. S. 666

(f) The legislative purpose of R.S. § 3701 also requires the exemption from assessment under the state statute of interest on federal securities which had accrued but had not yet been paid. Pp. 338 U. S. 675-676.

1 N.J. 496, 64 A.2d 341, reversed.

An order of a state tax agency dismissing appellant's appeal from an assessment was reversed by the former New Jersey Supreme Court. 137 N.J.L. 444, 60 A.2d 265. The Supreme Court of New Jersey, as established under the present state constitution, reversed. 1 N.J. 496, 64 A.2d 341. On appeal to this Court, reversed, p. 676.

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