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AMOSKEAG SAVINGS BANK v. PURDY

December 1, 1913

AMOSKEAG SAVINGS BANK
v.
PURDY



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Lurton, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney

Author: Pitney

[ 231 U.S. Page 376]

 MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the court.

The question presented is the validity of certain taxes imposed in the year 1908 by the taxing officers of New York City upon some shares of stock in certain national banking associations located in that city, which shares were owned by the relator, a New Hampshire corporation doing business in its home State. The taxable value of the shares was ascertained by the Commissioners of Taxes and Assessments, in accordance with the provisions of the law of the State of New York, by adding together the capital, surplus and undivided profits of each bank and dividing the amount by the number of outstanding shares. It is admitted that at the time of the making of this assessment the relator owed just debts exceeding the value of its gross personal estate, including its bank shares, after deducting therefrom the value of its property taxable elsewhere and the value of its property not taxable anywhere; that no portion of such debts had been deducted from the assessment of any of its personal property, other than the bank shares; and that no portion of the indebtedness was contracted in the purchase of non-taxable property or securities or for the purpose of evading taxation. Relator made application to the Commissioners of Taxes and Assessments for the cancellation of the assessment, upon the ground that it was entitled to have its indebtedness deducted from the assessed valuation of the bank shares. This application was denied, a proceeding by certiorari taken to review the determination of the Commissioners was dismissed at the special term of the Supreme Court of New York; the Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal (134 App. Div. 966), upon the authority of People ex rel. Bridgeport Savings Bank v. Feitner, 191 N.Y. 88; and the Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division, upon the same authority, 198 N.Y. 503. The case comes here by writ of error under § 709, Rev.

[ 231 U.S. Page 377]

     Stat. (Judicial Code, § 237), upon the ground that the taxation imposed is in violation of the rights of the relator under § 5219, Rev. Stat.*fn1

The contention of the plaintiff in error, made in the state tribunals and reiterated here, is that the taxes are invalid because made without allowing any deduction for relator's debts, as alleged to be allowed by the laws of New York in the case of other moneyed capital in the hands of individual citizens of that State; it being insisted that inasmuch as the debts of relator exceeded that valuation of the bank shares, the assessment should be wholly canceled.

The taxing laws in force at the time the assessment was made were in the following year consolidated and reenacted as the "Tax Law." (L., 1909, c. 62; in effect February 17, 1909; Cons. Laws, c. 60.) Those sections that are deemed in anywise pertinent to the matter in issue are set forth in full in the margin.*fn2

[ 231 U.S. Page 378]

     Section 21 provides for the preparation of the assessment roll, and requires that it shall contain separate columns, in which the assessing officers shall set down the pertinent items, and, among others, "4. In the fourth column the full value of all the taxable personal property owned by

[ 231 U.S. Page 379]

     each person respectively after deducting the just debts owing by him." This provision is held to apply equally to corporations and individuals (Peopel ex rel. Cornell Steamboat Co. v. Dederick, 161 N.Y. 195), and has the effect of allowing a deduction of the amount of the debts of the

[ 231 U.S. Page 380]

     taxpayer from the valuation of his general personal estate, not however including bank shares, which are dealt with in other sections. Section 23 requires the chief fiscal officer of every bank or banking association organized under ...


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