16459Power to tax=power to destroy!
- Nov 10, 2008
I just finished reading this case. Government of Oklahoma wants to tax oil company developing oil fields on Indian land. The oil company claims they are a federal instrumentality and as such are not subject to the tax. The case goes to the Supreme Court and the oil company wins! Here is the reason I am posting this: we have a right to work and sustain our lives and our right to life by our labors. In the same way that Indian mineral rights could be destroyed by state tax authorities; rendering the tax invalid; our very right to life can be destroyed by the IRS rendering the application of the tax invalid.
 In Choctaw & Gulf R.R. v. Harrison, 235 U.S. 292, the railroad company was the lessee of certain coal mines, obligating itself to take out annually specified amounts of coal and to pay a stipulated royalty. It proceeded actively to develop the mines, either directly or through its agent, and took therefrom large quantities of coal and fully complied with the obligations assumed. The State of Oklahoma attempted to tax the company under the law of the State requiring every person engaged in the mining or production of coal to make a report of the kind and amount produced to the actual cash value thereof, and at the same time pay to the State Treasurer a gross revenue tax in addition to the taxes levied upon an ad valorem basis upon such mining property, equal to 2% of the gross receipts from the total production. The law was held to be invalid as attempting to tax an instrumentality through which the United States was performing its duty to the Indians.
 The application of the case to that at bar needs no assisting comment. A tax upon the leases is a tax upon the power to make them, and could be used to destroy the power to make them. If they cannot be taxed as entities they cannot be taxed vicariously by taxing the stock, whose only value is their value, or by taking the stock as an evidence or measure of their value, rather than by directly estimating them as the Board of Equalization and the referee did. The assessment by the board was of the leases as objects of taxation, having no immunity under Federal law. This was repeated by the referee, and he made it clear that the assessment was so constituted. There was, he reports, a local assessment by the assessors of Osage and Washington counties of $52,830.02, and that the total value of the oil company ' s "property of every kind located in Oklahoma , over and above the amount locally assessed, was $447,169.98, on February 1, 1911," and he recommended a judgment for the latter amount. And, we repeat, there is no doubt of what elements it was composed. The gas business, he reports, was not "of itself profitable" but was "valuable as an adjunct to the company ' s oil operations." He was explicit as to what the stock of the company represented, saying that "the total value of said company ' s stock, including all its property, tangible and intangible, on the first day of February, 1911, was $500,000." It is manifest, therefore, when the court took the stock as evidence of the value of the property of the company the court took it as evidence of the value of the leases and thereby justified their assessment and taxation. This, for the reasons we have stated, was error.
 It follows from these views that the assessment against the oil company, so far as it included the leases, whether as separate objects of taxation or as represented or valued by the stock of the company, is invalid.
 Judgment reversed and case remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Co. v. State of Oklahoma, 1916.SCT.40195 <http://www.versuslaw.com> ¶¶ 32-35; 240 U.S. 522 (1916).
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