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UNION TANK LINE CO. V. WRIGHT, 249 U. S. 275 (1919)

U.S. Supreme Court

Union Tank Line Co. v. Wright, 249 U.S. 275 (1919)

Union Tank Line Co. v. Wright

No. 170

Argued January 22, 1919

Decided March 24, 1919

249 U.S. 275


A state may tax the movables of a foreign corporation, which are regularly and habitually employed therein, although devoted to interstate commerce. P. 249 U. S. 282.

While the valuation must be just, it need not be limited to the mere worth of the articles taken separately, but may include as well the intangible value due to the organic relation of the property in the state to the whole system of which it is part. Id.

To meet the difficulties of appraisement where the tangibles constitute part of a going concern operating in many states, and where absolute accuracy is generally impossible, the court has sustained methods producing results approximately correct -- for example, the mileage basis in the case of a telegraph company and the average amount of property habitually brought in and carried out by a car company. Id., Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Massachusetts, 125 U. S. 530; American Refrigerator Transit Co. v. Hall, 174 U. S. 70.

But if the plan pursued is arbitrary and the consequent valuation grossly excessive, it must be condemned because of conflict with the commerce clause or the Fourteenth Amendment, or both. Id.

A New Jersey company owning many tank cars, rented by shippers, was assessed for those running in and out of Georgia, without regard to and much in excess of their real value, upon a track-mileage basis -- i.e., in an amount bearing the same ratio to the value of all its car and other personal property as the ratio of the miles of railroad

Page 249 U. S. 276

over which the cars were run in Georgia to the total mile over which all were run there and elsewhere. Held that the rule adopted had no necessary relation to the real value in Georgia, and that the tax was void. P. 249 U. S. 283. Pullman's Palace Car Co. v. Pennsylvania, 141 U. S. 18, distinguished and limited.

What is said in an opinion upon a point not raised or properly involved cannot control in a subsequent case where the very point is presented for decision. P. 249 U. S. 286.

143 Ga. 765; 146 id. 489, reversed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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