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SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES,
OCTOBER TERM, 1895.
WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY . TAGGART.
ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF INDIANA.
No. 662. Argued January 16, 17, 1896.—Decided May 18, 1896.
A statute of a State, requiring a telegraph company to pay a tax upon its property within the State, valued at such a proportion of the whole value of its capital stock as the length of its lines within the State bears to the length of all its lines everywhere, deducting a sum equal to the value of its real estate and machinery subject to local taxation within the State, is constitutional and valid, notwithstanding that nothing is in terms directed to be deducted from the valuation, either for the value of its franchises from the United States, or for the value of its real estate and machinery situated and taxed in other States; unless there is something more showing that the system of taxation adopted is oppressive and unconstitutional.
The statute of Indiana of March 6, 1893, c. 171, which directs the state board of tax commissioners to take as the basis of valuation of the property within the State of every telegraph company, incorporated in Indiana or in any other State, the proportion of the value of its whole capital stock which the length of its lines within the State bears to the whole length of all its lines, yet, as construed by the Supreme Court of the State, makes it the duty of the tax commissioners to make such VOL. CLXII) 1
Statement of the Case.
deductions, on account of a greater proportional value of the company's property outside the State, or for any other reason, as to assess its property within the State at its true cash value; and, so construed, is constitutional.
THIS was a bill in equity, filed December 19, 1893, in the Circuit Court of the county of Marion and State of Indiana, by the Western Union Telegraph Company against Thomas Taggart, the auditor of that county, and Sterling R. Holt, its treasurer, and against the auditors and treasurers of other counties of Indiana, to restrain them from apportioning and collecting a tax assessed upon the plaintiff by the board of tax commissioners of the State, under the statute of Indiana of March 6, 1893, c: 171, the material parts of which are copied in the margin.' The principal allegations of the bill were as follows:
1 An act supplementary to and amendatory of an act entitled "Au act concerning taxation, repealing all laws in conflict therewith, and declaring an emergency," approved March 6, 1891, and providing for the taxation of telegraph, telephone, palace car, sleeping car, drawing-room car, dining car, express and fast freight joint stock associations, companies, copartnerships and corporations transacting business in the State of Indiana, repealing sections 68. 69, 70 and 71 of said act, and all laws in conflict therewith, and declaring an emergency:
SEC. 1. Any joint stock association, company, copartnership or corporation, whether incorporated under the laws of this State or of any other State or of any foreign nation, eugaged in transmitting to, from, through, in or across the State of Indiaua, telegraphic messages, shall be deemed and held to be a telegraph company; and every such telegraph company shall, annually, between the first day of April and the first day of Junc, make out and deliver to the auditor of State a statement, verified by the oath of the officer or agent of such company making such statement, with reference to the first day of April next preceding, showing:
First. The total capital stock of such association, company, copartnership or corporation.
Second. The number of shares of capital stock issued and outstanding, and the par or face value of each share.
Third. Its principal place of business.
Fourth. The market value of said shares of stock on the first day of April next preceding, and if such shares have no market value, then the actual value thereof.
Fifth. The real estate, structures, machinery, fixtures and appliances owned by said association, company, copartnership or corporation, and subject to local taxation within the State, and the location and assessed value
Statement of the Case,
That the plaintiff was, and for many years had been, a corporation of the State of New York, and "the owner of a large amount and number of telegraph poles, lines, wires,
thereof in each county or township where the same is assessed for local taxation.
Sixth. The specific real estate, together with the permanent improvements thereon, owned by such association, company, copartnership or corporation, situate outside the State of Indiana and not directly used in the conduct of the business, with a specific description of each such piece, where located, the purpose for which the same is used, and the sum at which the same is assessed for taxation in the locality where situated.
Seventh. All mortgages upon the whole or any part of its property, together with the dates and amount thereof.
Eighth. (a.) The total length of the lines of said association or company. (b.) The total length of so much of their lines as is outside the State of Indiana.
(c.) The length of the lines within each of the counties and townships within the State of Indiana.
SEC. 5. Upon the filing of such statements, the auditor of State shall examine them, and each of them, and if he shall deem the same insufficient, or in case he shall deem that other information is requisite, he shall require such officer to make such other and further statements as said auditor of State may call for. In case of the failure or refusal of any association, company, copartnership or corporation to make out and deliver to the auditor of State any statement or statements required by this act, such association, company, copartnership or corporation shall forfeit and pay to the State of Indiana one hundred dollars for each additional day such report is delayed beyond the first day of June, to be sued and recovered in any proper form of action, in the name of the State of Indiana, on the relation of the auditor of State, and such penalty, when collected, shall be paid into the general fund of the State.
SEC. 6. Upon the meeting of the state board of tax commissioners for the purpose of assessing railroad and other property, said auditor of State shall lay such statements, with such information as may have been fornished him, before said board of tax commissioners, who shall thereupon value and assess the property of each association, company, copartnership or corporation in the manner hereinafter set forth, after examining such statements, and after ascertaining the value of such properties therefrom, and from such other information as they may have or obtain. For that purpose they may require the agents or officers of said association, com pany, copartnership or corporation to appear before them with such books, papers or statements as they may require; or they may require additional statements to be made to them, and may compel the attendance of witnesses in case they shall deem it necessary to enable them to ascertain the true cash value of such property.