Allied-Signal, Inc. v. Director, Div. of Taxation, 504 U.S. 768, 16 (1992)

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Cite as: 504 U. S. 768 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

In the course of our decision in Container Corp., we reaffirmed that the constitutional test focuses on functional integration, centralization of management, and economies of scale. 463 U. S., at 179 (citing Woolworth, supra, at 364; Mobil Oil, supra, at 438). We also reiterated that a unitary business may exist without a flow of goods between the parent and subsidiary, if instead there is a flow of value between the entities. 463 U. S., at 178. The principal virtue of the unitary business principle of taxation is that it does a better job of accounting for "the many subtle and largely unquantifiable transfers of value that take place among the components of a single enterprise" than, for example, geographical or transactional accounting. Id., at 164-165 (citing Mobil Oil, 445 U. S., at 438-439).

Notwithstanding the Court's long experience in applying the unitary business principle, New Jersey and several amici curiae argue that it is not an appropriate means for distinguishing between income generated within a State and income generated without. New Jersey has not persuaded us to depart from the doctrine of stare decisis by overruling our cases that announce and follow the unitary business standard. In deciding whether to depart from a prior decision, one relevant consideration is whether the decision is "unsound in principle." Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U. S. 528, 546 (1985). Another is whether it is "unworkable in practice." Ibid. And, of course, reliance interests are of particular relevance because "[a]dherence to precedent promotes stability, predictability, and respect for judicial authority." Hilton v. South Carolina Public Railways Comm'n, 502 U. S. 197, 202 (1991) (citing Vasquez v. Hillery, 474 U. S. 254, 265-266 (1986)). See also Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, ante, at 316 (industry's reliance justifies adherence to precedent); ante, at 320 (Scalia, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment) (same). Against this background we address the arguments of New Jersey and its amici.


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