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U.S. Supreme Court

City of Pittsburgh v. Alco Parking Corp., 417 U.S. 369 (1974)

City of Pittsburgh v. Alco Parking Corp.

No. 73-582

Argued April 15, 1974

Decided June 10, 1974

417 U.S. 369


Respondent operators of offstreet parking facilities in Pittsburgh, Pa. sued to enjoin the enforcement of a city ordinance imposing an increased 20% tax on the gross receipts from parking or storing automobiles at nonresidential parking places, alleging, inter alia, that the ordinance was invalid under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The lower courts sustained the ordinance, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated it on the ground that the tax was so unreasonably high and burdensome that, in the context of competition from public lots operated by the city parking authority, which enjoyed certain tax exemptions and other advantages, the ordinance had the "effect" of an uncompensated taking of property contrary to the Due Process Clause.

Held: The ordinance is not unconstitutional, and the city was constitutionally entitled to put the automobile parker to the choice of using other transportation or paying the increased tax. Pp. 373-379

(a) The fact that a tax is so excessive as to render a business unprofitable or even threaten its existence furnishes no ground for holding the tax unconstitutional, Manano Co. v. Hamilton, 292 U. S. 40; Alaska Fish Co. v. Smith, 255 U. S. 44, and the judiciary should not infer from such fact, alone, a legislative attempt to exercise a forbidden power in the form of a seeming tax. Pp. 417 U. S. 373-376.

(b) The ordinance does not lose its character as a tax or revenue-raising measure, and may not be invalidated as too burdensome under the Due Process Clause, merely because the taxing authority, directly or through an instrumentality enjoying various forms of tax exemption, competes with the taxpayer in a manner that the judiciary thinks is unfair, since the Due Process Clause does not demand of or permit the judiciary to undertake to separate burdensome and nonburdensome taxes or to oversee the terms and circumstances under which the government or its tax-exempt instrumentalities may compete with the private sector. Pp. 417 U. S. 376-377.

453 Pa. 245, 307 A.2d 851, reversed. chanrobles.com-red

Page 417 U. S. 370

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 417 U. S. 379.