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Ott v. Mississippi Valley Barge Line Co., 336 U.S. 169 (1949)

Ott v. Mississippi Valley Barge Line Co.

No. 244

Argued January 5, 1949

Decided February 7, 1949

336 U.S. 169


1. A state and a city levied ad valorem taxes on foreign corporations operating barge lines in interstate commerce on inland waters. The assessments were based on the ratio between the number of miles of line within the State and the total number of miles of the entire line. The vessels engaged in the service were enrolled at ports outside of the State, and were only within the State for such time as was required to load and unload cargo and to make necessary repairs.

Held: the taxes did not violate either the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Commerce Clause of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 336 U. S. 170-175.

2. The rule of tax apportionment for rolling stock of railroads in interstate commerce, formulated in Pullman's Car Co. v. Pennsylvania, 141 U. S. 18, is applicable here. Pp. 336 U. S. 172-174.

3. So far as due process is concerned, the only question is whether the tax, in practical operation, has relation to opportunities, benefits, or protection conferred or afforded by the taxing State, and those requirements are satisfied if the tax is fairly apportioned to the commerce carried on within the State. P. 336 U. S. 174.

Page 336 U. S. 170

4. Claims of errors in the amount of the assessment need not here be resolved in the absence of any suggestion that the State affords no administrative or judicial remedy to correct them. P. 336 U. S. 175.

166 F.2d 509, reversed.

Appellees instituted suits in the District Court, based on diversity of citizenship, to recover allegedly unconstitutional state taxes which they had paid under protest. The District Court gave judgment for appellees. 68 F.Supp. 30. The Court of Appeals affirmed. 166 F.2d 509. On appeal to this Court, reversed, p. 336 U. S. 175.

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