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SCHUYLKILL TRUST CO. v. PENNSYLVANIA

decided: January 3, 1938.

SCHUYLKILL TRUST CO
v.
PENNSYLVANIA



APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA.

Hughes, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo, Black

Author: Roberts

[ 302 U.S. Page 508]

 MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Schuylkill Trust Co. v. Pennsylvania, 296 U.S. 113, we held an act of Pennsylvania*fn1 invalid as construed and applied in the calculation of the amount of the tax thereby imposed. The statute requires every trust company chartered under the general corporation law to report annually to the Department of Revenue the number of outstanding shares and their actual value at the close of the preceding calendar year. The department is to assess the shares for taxation at five mills upon the dollar. The taxable value of each share is to be ascertained by adding together so much of the amount of paid-in capital stock, surplus, and undivided profits as is not invested in shares of corporations liable to pay or exempted from payment of the Pennsylvania capital stock tax, or relieved from the payment of a tax on shares, and dividing this amount by the number of shares. The company must pay the tax from its general fund within sixty days after assessment, or collect it from the shareholders and pay it over. Provision is made for posting notice of the assessment in the company's office so that shareholders shall be advised of the amount of the assessment and for a hearing of any shareholder who objects to the valuation of the shares.*fn2

Securities owned by a trust company may have been purchased out of deposits or from the capital, surplus, and undivided profits. Since securities the value of which is by the act deductible from the tax base may have been purchased out of either of the two funds, it is open to the company to prove that they or any of them were

[ 302 U.S. Page 509]

     purchased out of capital, surplus, or undivided profits. Upon such a showing these securities are fully exempt from tax. Where the company has not made this showing the practice in assessing the tax has been to grant a so-called proportionate deduction in respect of such exempt securities.*fn3 This is accomplished by the use of the following formula: A fraction, the numerator of which is the capital, surplus, and undivided profits at book value less the book value of those investments, if any, for which a full deduction has been made, and the denominator, the book value of the permanent investments, less the book value of those investments, if any, for which a full deduction has been made, is applied to the book value of the securities which are to be apportioned, after adjustment for appreciation or depreciation of those securities, and the resulting sum is deducted from the capital, surplus, and undivided profits. In this manner a portion of the value of each exempted security reflected in the capital, surplus, and profits is deducted before the value per share is determined by dividing the capital surplus and profits so diminished by the number of shares outstanding.

Upon the former appeal it was shown that whereas a proportionate deduction was allowed for shares of Pennsylvania corporations previously taxed, or shares of such corporations exempt from tax, no deduction was accorded in respect of shares of a national bank and bonds of the federal government and its instrumentalities owned by the company. The appellant's position was that the act, though it purported to tax the shares, in fact taxed the net assets of the company which included shares of stock of a national bank and securities of the federal government and its instrumentalities owned by the

[ 302 U.S. Page 510]

     appellant. An alternative claim was that, if the levy was upon the shares as such, the application of the act worked a discrimination against national bank shares and other federal securities by excluding from the base a proportionate part of the value of shares of certain Pennsylvania corporations while leaving in the base national bank shares and federal securities; and that, if the tax was upon the shares it was bad, as the Commonwealth was without power to tax the shares of nonresident stockholders. The Commonwealth insisted the tax was upon the shares and not upon assets, that the application of the statute involved no discrimination against federal securities and that the State had jurisdiction to tax the shares of nonresident shareholders.

We found it unnecessary to determine whether the tax was upon shares or assets. Amongst the assets were shares of national bank stock which had been taxed to the company as owner, pursuant to R.S. 5219 as amended.*fn4 These we held must be excluded from the base upon which the tax was calculated. We held further that the exclusion from the base of a proportion of the value of tax exempt shares of Pennsylvania corporations, and the refusal of like treatment of federal securities, operated as an unconstitutional discrimination against the latter. We reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and remanded the cause for further proceedings not inconsistent with our opinion.

After our mandate went down the Commonwealth moved the trial court to redetermine the tax by disregarding the amendatory statute involved in our decision and reverting to the basic act of June 13, 1907,*fn5 which was claimed not to be affected by the infirmity of ...


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