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UNITED STATES V. HVOSLEF, 237 U. S. 1 (1915)

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Hvoslef, 237 U.S. 1 (1915)

United States v. Hvoslef

No. 331

Argued January 13, 1915

Decided March 22, 1915

237 U.S. 1


Under Par. 20, of § 24, of the Judicial Code, the Court of Claims has jurisdiction of a suit against the United States for refund of money paid for documentary stamps affixed to charter parties under § 25 of the War Revenue Act of 1898 and the district court of the proper district has concurrent jurisdiction of claims of that nature not exceeding ten thousand dollars.

Under the various refunding statutes, culminating in the Act of July 27, 1912, c. 256, 37 Stat. 240, such claims are founded upon a law of Congress within the meaning of the Tucker Act as now incorporated in the Judicial Code.

Although the pendency of one class of claims may have induced the passage of an act of Congress providing for their adjustment, the act may embrace other claims if its terms are sufficiently wide so to do.

While, under § 297 of the Judicial Code, § 5 of the Tucker Act was saved from repeal and the district court having jurisdiction of a claim against the United States is the one of the district in which the plaintiff resides, that requirement may be waived, and if no specific objection is taken before pleading to the merits, it will be deemed to have been waived, and if the district court otherwise has jurisdiction, the case may proceed.

Under the Refunding Act of July 27, 1912, protest at the time of affixing

Page 237 U. S. 2

documentary stamps was not essential to recovery. Right to repayment exists if the record shows that the sums sought to be recovered were not legally payable and the claim was duly presented within the time prescribed.

The constitutional freedom from taxation on imports assured by § 9, Art. I, of the federal Constitution means more than mere exemption from taxes specifically laid upon the goods themselves. It means that the process of exportation shall not be obstructed by any burden of taxation.

Where a charter party is practically a bill of lading for the entire cargo of the vessel, and is essential to the business of exportation in shipload lots, a tax on the charter party is, in substance, a tax on exportation and, as such, a tax on the exports, and, if on charter parties of vessels exclusively for foreign ports, is invalid under § 9, Art. I, of the federal Constitution.

There is a distinction between tonnage taxes, as laid by the federal government, and export taxes, and the fact that Congress has power to lay a tonnage tax on entry does not authorize it to lay taxes on exportation which practically amount to taxes on the exports themselves.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 237 U. S. 7

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