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U.S. Supreme Court

Cornell Steamboat Co. v. Sohmer, 235 U.S. 549 (1915)

Cornell Steamboat Company v. Sohmer

No. 62

Argued November 5, 1914

Decided January 5, 1915

235 U.S. 549


A state tax on transmission and transportation corporations of the state imposing the tax for the privilege of carrying on such business in a corporate capacity within the state, based on the gross earnings on transportation originating and terminating within the state, and chanrobles.com-red

Page 235 U. S. 550

expressly excluding earning derived from business of an interstate character, is not violative of the commerce clause of the federal Constitution, and so held as to § 184 of the Tax Laws of New York.

Such a tax is not, as to a corporation transporting merchandise on navigable waters, a license tax for the privilege of navigating public waters of the United States, which is granted by federal law, but merely a privilege for carrying on the business in a corporate capacity. Harman v. Chicago, 147 U. S. 39, distinguished.

While a state may not require a navigation license except in exceptional cases, as for compensation for improvements made by itself, it may, as to its own corporations having property within its borders, enforce its usual and customary system of taxation without infraction of the superior authority and law of the United States concerning navigation.

Transportation between ports of a state is not interstate commerce to the extent of being excluded from the taxing power of the state because a part of the journey is over the territory of another state, and so held as to tows for various points in the State of New York from the harbor of New York and made up for convenience at a point in the Hudson River below Weehawken in New Jersey.

206 N.Y. 651 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality of § 184 of the Tax Law of New York imposing a tax on corporations based on gross earnings from transportation or transmission business originating and terminating within the state and the determination of what constitutes such interstate business, are stated in the opinion. chanrobles.com-red

Page 235 U. S. 555