Complete Auto Transit Inc. v. Brady

PETITIONER: Complete Auto Transit Inc.
RESPONDENT: Brady
LOCATION: Complete Auto Transit Inc.

DOCKET NO.: 76-29
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Mississippi

CITATION: 430 US 274 (1977)
ARGUED: Jan 19, 1977
DECIDED: Mar 07, 1977

ADVOCATES:
Alan W. Perry - Argued the cause for the appellant
James H. Haddock - Argued the cause for the appellee

Facts of the case

Complete Auto Transit was a Michigan corporation doing business in Mississippi. Complete shipped cars into the state where they were distributed for sale. Mississippi imposed a tax on transportation companies for the "privilege of doing business" in the state. The tax was applied equally to businesses involved in intra-and interstate commerce.

Question

Did the Mississippi tax violate the Commerce Clause because it placed a burden on an activity associated with interstate commerce?

Media for Complete Auto Transit Inc. v. Brady

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 19, 1977 in Complete Auto Transit Inc. v. Brady

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 07, 1977 in Complete Auto Transit Inc. v. Brady

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 76-29, Complete Auto Transit against Brady will be announced by Mr. Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

This case comes to us on appeal from the Supreme Court of Mississippi, that State levy's tax on the privilege of doing business in Mississippi.

The appellant is a Michigan corporation engaged in the business of transporting motor vehicles by motor carrier for General Motors Corporation.

General Motors assembles outside Mississippi vehicles that are destined for dealers within the State.

Those vehicles are shipped by rail to Jackson where they are loaded onto the appellant's trucks and then transported by the appellant to Mississippi dealers.

The State Tax Commission informed the appellant that it was being assessed taxes for the sales of transportation services of that kind during the period from August 1, 1968 through July 31, 1972.

The appellant paid the taxes under protest and instituted the present action for refund in a Mississippi State Court.

The trial court sustained the assessments and the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed.

Our cases in this area have not been entirely consistent but in an opinion filed today, we hold that a tax on the privilege of doing business in the State does not violate the Commerce Clause of the Constitution when it is applied to an interstate activity such as this one have any substantial nexus with the taxing state with the tax is fairly apportioned where it does not discriminate against interstate commerce and where it is fairly related to the services provided by the State.

And we have concluded that on this record all these conditions are satisfied and that the tax despite the fact that is labeled as a privilege tax of doing business in Mississippi is not unconstitutional.

A case decided here in 1951, Spector Motor Service against O'Connor in 340 U.S. is specifically overruled and we thus affirmed the decision of the Supreme Court of Mississippi.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Blackmun.