Michelin Tire Corporation v. Wages

PETITIONER: Michelin Tire Corporation
RESPONDENT: Wages
LOCATION: Michelin Tire Warehouse

DOCKET NO.: 74-1396
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Georgia

CITATION: 423 US 276 (1976)
ARGUED: Oct 15, 1975
DECIDED: Jan 14, 1976

ADVOCATES:
Earle B. May, Jr. - Argued the cause for the petitioner
H. A. Stephens, Jr. - for respondents
Hosea Alexander Stephens, Jr. - Argued the cause for the respondents

Facts of the case

The Michelin Tire Corporation (MTC) operated a warehouse in Gwinnett County, Georgia, in which products imported from France and Nova Scotia were stored for later distribution. The County levied a nondiscriminatory ad valorem property tax on the goods (a percent of the property's value). MTC claimed that the contents of the warehouse were constitutionally free from state taxation because they were in their original containers. The county declared that the products were subject to the tax because they had been sorted and arranged for sale.

Question

Did the Gwinnett County tax violate the Import-Export Clause by taxing goods that maintained the character of imports?

Media for Michelin Tire Corporation v. Wages

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 15, 1975 in Michelin Tire Corporation v. Wages

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 14, 1976 in Michelin Tire Corporation v. Wages

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the court in Michelin Tire Corporation against the Tax Commissioner be announced by Mr. Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

In this case the petitioner Michelin Tire Corporation imported auto and truck tires from France and Nova Scotia and stocked them in its Georgia warehouse awaiting sales to its hundreds of franchised retail tire outlets in the Southeast States.

Georgia assessed ad valorem property taxes against tires and the Georgia court's sustained the tax.

The opinions of the two Georgia courts involved recognized that over 100 years ago this court in Low. v. Austin held that even a nondiscriminatory ad valorem property tax was a state imposed duty prohibited by Article I section 10 of the constitution which provides that no state shall without the consent of congress lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, say what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws.

The Georgia courts concluded however that the tires had lost their status as imports on the tax date and thus had become subject to the Georgia tax.

Today we affirm the Georgia Supreme Court but not on the ground on which it sustained the tax.

Rather, we overruled Low v. Austin and hold that Georgia's nondiscriminatory ad valorem property tax levied against the imported tires did not constitute the laying of an impost or duty on imports within the prohibition of Article I section 10.

Mr. Justice White has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment of the affirmance.

Mr. Justice Stevens took no part in the consideration and decision of the case.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Brennan.