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Moses Lake Homes, Inc. v. Grant County, 365 U.S. 744 (1961)

Moses Lake Homes, Inc. v. Grant County

No. 212

Argued March 23, 1961

Decided April 17, 1961

365 U.S. 744


1. Respondent County attempted to tax the full value of the buildings and improvements on privately owned Wherry Act leaseholds of housing developments on a federally owned Air Force base, although it taxed other leaseholds, including privately owned leaseholds of tax-exempt state lands, at a lower valuation.

Held: the tax is unconstitutional and void, because it discriminates against the United States and its lessees. Phillips Co. v. Dumas School District, 361 U. S. 376, followed. Offutt Housing Co. v. Sarpy County, 351 U. S. 253, distinguished. Pp. 365 U. S. 749-751.

2. The Court of Appeals erred in holding that the fact that the taxes were higher did not invalidate them entirely, but only required that the amount collectible be reduced to a valid amount, and in directing the District Court to decree a valid tax for the invalid one which the State had attempted to exact. Such a discriminatory tax is entirely void, and federal courts have no authority to assess or levy taxes on behalf of States or their counties. Pp. 365 U. S. 751-752.

3. An opinion and judgment of the Supreme Court of Washington holding that such leaseholds may lawfully be so valued was not res judicata as to the County's tax claims against one of the leaseholds here involved for the years 1955 and 1956, because no tax had been levied or assessed against that leasehold when that decision was rendered, and, hence, no issue of discrimination was or could have been presented and adjudicated in that case. P. 365 U. S. 752.

276 F.2d 836, reversed.

Page 365 U. S. 745

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