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MINNESOTA v. FIRST NATIONAL BANK ST. PAUL

decided: March 21, 1927.

MINNESOTA
v.
FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF ST. PAUL



CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA.

Taft, Holmes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Sanford, Stone

Author: Stone

[ 273 U.S. Page 562]

 MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The State of Minnesota, the petitioner, brought suit in the district court of Ramsey County, Minnesota, to recover from the First National Bank of St. Paul, the respondent, taxes assessed against its shareholders for the years 1921 and 1922. Respondent resisted the payment of the tax on the ground that the assessment was at a higher rate than that on moneyed capital employed in competition with national banks and hence prohibited by § 5219 of the Revised Statutes of the United States. The trial court gave judgment for petitioner. On appeal judgment was reversed by the Supreme Court of Minnesota and a new trial ordered. 164 Minn. 235. Upon the second trial, had upon the record of the first, the district court held that at the time of the assessment of the taxes in question "a substantial and relatively material portion of the money and credits so listed and assessed in said

[ 273 U.S. Page 563]

     Ramsey County consisted of moneyed capital in the hands of individual citizens of said county, coming into competition with the business of national banks in said county, and with the business of said defendant." Judgment in respondent's favor was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Minnesota, 164 Minn. 251. This Court granted certiorari. 269 U.S. 550; Jud. Code, § 237 (b).

The questions raised are similar to those considered in First National Bank of Hartford v. City of Hartford, ante, p. 548, and may be disposed of by the application to the present facts of the principles there considered.

Under the Minnesota statutes, shares of national banks and the moneyed capital of banks or mortgage loan companies organized under the laws of the state are assessed and taxed at forty per cent. of their full value in the district where located. Gen. Stat. 1923, § 2023; Laws of 1921, c. 416. Money and credits are taxed at the rate of three mills on the dollar of their full cash value and are exempt from all other taxation. Gen. Stat. 1913, § 2316; Laws of 1911, c. 285. Mortgages upon real estate and executory contracts for the sale of real estate are separately taxed at a lower rate; 15 cents per one hundred dollars where the period to run is for five years or less, and 25 cents per one hundred dollars on mortgages and contracts for a longer period. Gen. Stat. 1913, § 2301, et seq.; Laws of 1921, c. 445. Money is defined as gold and silver coin, all forms of currency, and all deposits subject to withdrawal on demand. Credits include every demand for money or other valuable thing. Gen. Stat. 1923, § 1980; Laws of 1917, c. 130. Under these statutes money and credits, as defined, are taxed at the three-mill rate and mortgages on real estate at a lesser rate.

It appears that the tax assessed upon the shares of respondent was sixty-seven mills in 1921 and sixty-one and one-half mills in 1922. Although based upon a forty per cent. valuation, the actual rate upon the shares was

[ 273 U.S. Page 564]

     higher than the prescribed tax of three mills per dollar of full valuation of money and credits and therefore was discriminatory. Petitioner argues that in its actual operation, the tax on national bank shares is no greater than the tax on credits, since under the statute individuals are taxed at the rate of three mills upon the full value of their credits without deducting their liabilities, whereas in taxing bank shares, the liabilities of the banks are deducted from their assets in ascertaining the forty per cent. valuation of their shares. Therefore, it is urged, if bank shares were taxed at the same rate without deducting the bank's liabilities in ascertaining the value of their shares, the amount of the tax would be approximately the same. This argument ignores the fact that the tax authorized by § 5219 is against the holders of the bank shares and is measured by the value of the shares, and not by the assets of the bank without deduction of its liabilities, Des Moines National Bank v. Fairweather, 263 U.S. 103, and that the bank share tax must be compared with the tax assessed on competing moneyed capital of individuals invested in credits, or the tax on capital invested by individuals in the shares of corporations whose business competes with that of national banks. Mercantile Bank v. New York, 121 U.S. 138, 156, 157; First National Bank v. Anderson, 269 U.S. 341, 348. Thus compared, the actual tax imposed upon the shares of respondent, like the tax imposed upon credits in the hands of individuals, is assessed without deducting the liabilities of their individual owners, but at different rates. This discrimination is prohibited by § 5219 if moneyed capital in the hands of individuals in Minnesota is employed in substantial competition with national banks within the state.

The evidence shows that there were money and credits listed for taxation in the entire state during each of the years in question in excess of $400,000,000, exclusive of municipal ...


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