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U.S. Supreme Court

Braniff Airways v. Nebraska Board, 347 U.S. 590 (1954)

Braniff Airways, Inc. v. Nebraska Board of

Equalization and Assessment

No. 476

Argued March 12, 1954

Decided June 1, 1954

347 U.S. 590


Pursuant to a Nebraska tax statute, an apportioned ad valorem tax was levied on the flight equipment of appellant, an interstate air carrier. Appellant is not incorporated in Nebraska, and does not have its principal place of business or "home port" in that State, but its aircraft make eighteen stops per day regularly in Nebraska and approximately one tenth of appellant's revenue is derived from the pickup and discharge of Nebraska freight and passengers. Appellant challenged the validity of the tax under the Federal Constitution, but it did not challenge the reasonableness of the apportionment prescribed by the taxing statute or the application of the apportionment to its property.

Held: appellant's flight equipment is not immune from taxation by Nebraska for want of situs there or because regulation of air navigation by the Federal Government precludes such state taxation. Pp. 347 U. S. 591-602.

1. Federal statutes governing air commerce enacted under the commerce power do not preclude the challenged tax. Pp. 347 U. S. 594-597.

2. Appellant has not demonstrated that the Commerce Clause otherwise bars this tax as a burden on interstate commerce. Pp. 347 U. S. 597-598.

3. Whether an instrumentality of commerce has tax situs in a state for the purpose of subjection to a property tax is a question of due process; and that question was sufficiently presented by appellant in this case. Pp. 347 U. S. 598-599.

4. Eighteen stops per day by appellant's aircraft was sufficient contact with Nebraska to sustain that State's power to levy an apportioned ad valorem tax on such aircraft, even though the same aircraft do not land every day, and even though none of the aircraft is continuously within the State. Pp. 347 U. S. 599-601.

5. The power of Nebraska to levy this tax is not affected by the fact that the original plaintiff in this case was domiciled in Delaware, through which its planes did not fly, and that appellant (with which the original plaintiff was merged) is domiciled in Oklahoma, through which the aircraft in question make regular flights. P. 347 U. S. 601. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 347 U. S. 591

6. Northwest Airlines v. Minnesota, 322 U. S. 292, does not preclude states other than those of the corporate domicile from taxing instrumentalities of interstate commerce on the apportionment basis in accordance with their use in the taxing state. Pp. 347 U. S. 601-602.

157 Neb. 425, 59 N.W.2d 746, affirmed.

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