Allied-Signal, Inc. v. Director, Div. of Taxation, 504 U.S. 768 (1992)

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certiorari to the supreme court of new jersey

No. 91-615. Argued March 4, 1992—Reargued April 22, 1992— Decided June 15, 1992

In order for a State to tax the multistate income of a nondomiciliary corporation, there must be, inter alia, a minimal connection between the interstate activities and the taxing State, Mobil Oil Corp. v. Commissioner of Taxes of Vt., 445 U. S. 425, 436-437, and a rational relation between the income attributed to the taxing State and the intrastate value of the corporate business, id., at 437. Rather than isolating the intrastate income-producing activities from the rest of the business, a State may tax a corporation on an apportioned sum of the corporation's multistate business if the business is unitary. E. g., ASARCO Inc. v. Idaho Tax Comm'n, 458 U. S. 307, 317. However, a State may not tax the nondomiciliary corporation's income if it is derived from unrelated business activity that constitutes a discrete business enterprise. Exxon Corp. v. Department of Revenue of Wis., 447 U. S. 207, 224. Petitioner is the successor-in-interest to the Bendix Corporation, a Delaware corporation. In the late 1970's Bendix acquired 20.6% of the stock of ASARCO Inc., a New Jersey corporation, and resold it to ASARCO in 1981, generating a $211.5 million gain. After respondent New Jersey tax official assessed Bendix for taxes on an apportioned amount which included in the base the gain realized from the stock disposition, Bendix sued for a refund in State Tax Court. The parties stipulated that, during the period that Bendix held its investment, it and ASARCO were unrelated business enterprises each of whose activities had nothing to do with the other, and that, although Bendix held two seats on ASARCO's board, it exerted no control over ASARCO. Based on this record, the court held that the assessment was proper, and the Appellate Division and the State Supreme Court both affirmed. The latter court stated that the tests for determining a unitary business are not controlled by the relationship between the taxpayer recipient and the affiliate generator of the income that is the subject of the tax, and concluded that Bendix essentially had a business function of corporate acquisitions and divestitures that was an integral operational activity.

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