Department of Revenue of Mont. v. Kurth Ranch, 511 U.S. 767, 21 (1994)

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Cite as: 511 U. S. 767 (1994)

Rehnquist, C. J., dissenting

dial or punitive simply does not work in the case of a tax statute. Tax statutes need not be based on any benefit accorded to the taxpayer or on any damage or cost incurred by the Government as a result of the taxpayer's activities. Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Montana, 453 U. S. 609, 622 (1981). Thus, in analyzing the instant tax statute, the inquiry into the State's "damages caused by the [Kurths'] wrongful conduct," post, at 794 (O'Connor, J., dissenting), is unduly restrictive.

The proper question to be asked is whether the Montana drug tax constitutes a second punishment under the Double Jeopardy Clause for conduct already punished criminally. The Court asks the right question, ante, at 780, but reaches the wrong conclusion.

Taxes are customarily enacted to raise revenue to support the costs of government. Cf. ante, at 779-780 ("[T]axes are typically different [than fines, penalties, and forfeitures] because they are usually motivated by revenue-raising . . . purposes"). It is also firmly established that taxes may be enacted to deter or even suppress the taxed activity. Constitutional attacks on such laws have been regularly turned aside in our previous decisions. In A. Magnano Co. v. Hamilton, 292 U. S. 40 (1934), for example, the Court upheld against a due process challenge a steep excise tax imposed by the State of Washington on processors of oleomargarine during the depths of the depression. In Sonzinsky v. United States, supra, at 513, the Court upheld an annual federal firearms tax as a valid exercise of the taxing power of Congress. The Court there said "it has long been established that an Act of Congress which on its face purports to be an exercise of the taxing power is not any the less so because the tax is burdensome or tends to restrict or suppress the thing taxed." In United States v. Sanchez, 340 U. S. 42 (1950), the Court upheld the former federal tax on marijuana at the rate of $100 per ounce against a challenge that the tax was a penalty, rather than a true tax. In so doing, the Court


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