« PreviousContinue »
it declares simply that "all property is subject to taxation," with the exception of the property of the United States and the State. Justice Rhodes then, on p. 438, proceeds as follows:
“The counsel for the defendant hold, as we understand them, that the assessment roll was made under the provisions of the Act of May 9th, 1862 (Stats. 1862, p. 509), and of the Act of March 6th, 1863 (Stats. 1863, p. 35). We do not agree with the learned counsel in respect to the Act of 1862. An examination of the multitudinous Revenue Acts applicable to San Francisco-a part general and a part special, with provisions incongruous, conflicting, and sometimes absurd-is not so attended with pleasure that it will be unnecessarily undertaken. The result of our exploration is far from being satisfactory, for we are not sure that we are able to discover the particular provision applicable to any particular point in the controversy."
From these remarks of the Court, as well as from those which immediately follow, the justice of our language supra in this note, as to the difficulties of the Courts, is manifest. The Court proceeds:
" The first section of the Act of May 9th, 1862, prescribing the manner in which the assessment roll of personal property shall be made by the Assessor directing him to enter the names of the persons, etc., assessed, and the amount of the tax, without requiring him to enter the property or its valuation-probably repealed all previous provisions defining the manner of making such roll; but this provision, whatever may have been its meaning or effect, was superseded by Section 1 of the Act of March 6th, 1863 (Stats. 1863, p. 35), amendatory of the Act of 1859 (Stats. 1859, p. 346), which latter Act was amendatory of the general Revenue Act of 1857—the Act which, with its amendments, became applicable to San Francisco alone. Section 4 of the Act of 1857, as amended in 1863, provides for the making of the assessment roll of personal property, and directs the Assessor, among other things, to set down in a separate column 'all personal property taxable to each (person, etc.) under the classification provided for in Section 2 of this Act.' The second section of the Act of 1859 is an amendment of the third section of the Act of 1857. The last amendment of the third section of the Act of 1857 which we find was passed in 1862 (Stats. 1862, p. 57). The section divides personal property into nine classes. The property assessed in this case falls within the fourth class, to wit: 'All money at interest or loaned, whether secured by pledge,
mortgage, or otherwise; all solvent debts exceedin what may be due from such person, corporation, association, or firm. The defendant contends that as this class is divisible into seven species of property, it was the duty of the Assessor to state the particular species of the property which may be entered as of this class, together with its valuation; and in support of this position reliance is placed on Falkner v. Hunt, 16 Cal., p. 167. At the time the assessment was made, which was under consideration in Falkner v. Hunt, Section 3 of the Act of 1857 did not prescribe any classification of personal property, and the Court held that it must be described in the assessment roll by its different species in manner defined in Section 5 of the Act. One object of the amendment of Section 3, in 1862, was to enable the taxpayer and the Assessor to group the property under the classification therein specified; at least, if that was not the object, we are at a loss to understand what was the purpose of the classification. A description, with the minuteness and particularity contended for by the defendant, would be prolix and cumbersome, and would serve no useful purpose. Take the second class: 'All stocks of goods on hand, all goods, wares, merchandise, and chattels of every description. The same rule that would require the Assessor to specify in different items, money loaned secured by pledge, money loaned secured by mortgage, money loaned secured by deed of trust, or by the obligation of a third person, or other security, would require the Assessor to give the description of each chattel falling within that class which was not included within .stocks of goods.' The Legislature could not have intended so useless a proceeding. The only reason why a particular description of the property assessed may be required by the person assessed, is that he may know whether it has been properly valued. It is admitted that the only money loaned out by the defendant, and the only solvent debts due him, during said fiscal years, was the one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, for the taxes upon which this suit is brought, and is the one hundred and twentyfive thousand dollars loaned by the defendant to one James Lick, secured to be paid by a deed of trust,' etc. As a matter of fact, the defendant was not misled, and could be under no misapprehension as to the meaning of the assessment. (People vs. Home Insurance Company, 29 Cal., p. 549; People vs. Empire Gold and Silver Mining Company, 33 Cal., p. 171.) It certainly was money loaned, and it was also a solvent debt.
"THE TERM “SOLVENT DEBT' duplicates all the other species of property mentioned in that class, in the same manner that‘chattels' does all the personal property mentioned in the section. Treating the property as a solvent debt, we see no necessity for adding that the amount is in excess of the owner's indebtedness, for it is only the excess that is taxable. But regarding money loaned as the more specific and proper designation, was it necessary also to state the security ? Suppose that, instead of being included in one loan, the one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars had in fact been loaned to one hundred and twenty-five different persons, in sums of one thousand dollars each, and that each borrower had given security, amongst which was to be found all the forms indicated by the words of the statute: Whether secured by pledge, mortgage, or otherwise '—if otherwise' means other forms of security. The position taken by the defendant would require the Assessor to state each debt and the nature of the security. This would increase the roll to dimensions beyond all reason, and we think to very little useful purpose. In Falkner vs. Hunt it is said that money loaned' would be a sufficient description. And we think that is the more apparent since property is classified by the statute, and the taxpayer is required to make his statement in that form. The classification would be useless unless brief mention of the property in the roll would be sufficient.
“If there is still any doubt about the sufficiency of the description under the provisions of the statute, the curative Act we first referred to corrects all errors of mere mode and form-the roll showing that the property of the defendant was entered and valued. The property is described in the roll, with its valuation,
follows: 'Money,' valuation, '5,000.' 'Money loaned,' valuation, $125,000,' and over the column of valuation is the word dollars,' indicating the meaning of the figures in the column. . The requirement of the Constitution that the valuation shall be made by the Assessor, does not, necessarily, imply that a minute or full description shall be given in the roll. The terms and manner of description are the proper subject of legislative action, and may be made as general as it was by the Revenue Act of 1861—personal property'—which was upheld in People vs. Sneath, 28 Cal., p. 612. This disposes of all the points in respect to the assessment for 1865-6, which we think it necessary to notice."
The Court proceeds, on p. 445, et seq., as follows:
“OBJECTION IS TAKEN TO THE ACTION OF THE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION.-Sec. 2 of the Act of 1862 (page 509) provides that the Board ‘shall meet on the first Monday in June in each year for the correction of errors in the assessment of personal property, and shall continue in session from time to time until all such errors brought to their notice shall be corrected; provided, however, they shall not sit after the third Monday in June.' The Board met on the first and the third Mondays of June. Between those days, as we infer from the record, a committee of the Board received applications for the correction of the assessment, and perhaps took the testimony, if any was offered. We see no objection to such a course, calculated as it was to facilitate the dispatch of business. The Board, as was necessary and proper, finally acted on the applications and ordered the corrections to be made on the assessment roll. The Act does not require the Board to remain in session during the whole period of its existence. The failure to sit on any day, or any number of days, less than the whole, is productive of no injury to a person who is assessed, unless he has cause to complain of the assessment, and unless it also appears that he failed to have the errors corrected because he could not get a hearing before the Board.
“THE VALUATION, as we have remarked, is to be made by the Assessor, and the province of the Board is to correct errors by adding to or deducting from the valuation, when application therefor is made. It does not appear that, when the Board closed its session, any valuation was erroneous. The objection, in our opinion, is untenable. The counsel for the plaintiff suggests that 'this case presents a fit opportunity for the Court 'incidentally to direct the attention of the next Legislature to the necessity of reducing the jargon of the various laws into one legible and intelligible statute on the subject of revenue.' The learned counsel are doubtless laboring under the delusion that the revenue laws should be general and uniform in their operation. But a cursory glance at the legislation upon this subject will disclose their error. It has been found necessary to devise almost as many different revenue systems as there are counties in the State, and frequently they will suffice for only one year. It has been found necessary to provide different times and modes for the performance of official services under the revenue laws; and in one instance the necessities of the occasion were such that the Board of Equalization of one county was required to commence its session after the time when the Auditor is required to deliver the duplicate assessment roll to the Tax Collector. We must decline to accede to the request. After having given the Revenue Acts a thorough investigation no one will need any suggestions from us urging their revision.
“The defendant's counsel present two questions of great moment. They relate to double taxation, and the constitutionality of the Revenue Laws. It is apparent that the question, whether the assessment against the defendant, of the sum of money loaned, under the existing circumstancs, amounts to double taxation, does not legitimately arise upon the facts of the case. While the defendant held the money, which he afterwards loaned to Lick, he was taxable for that sum, and when he passed the money to Lick upon making the loan, and took Lick's obligation to pay the same, secured by a deed of trust or other adequate security, he certainly did not divest himself of so much property. He possessed the same amount of property that he held before the loan was made. Its form only was changed. And so in all cases of loans. The lender owns the debt, and the debt is property, its value depending on the sufficiency of the security, if there be security, and the ability of the borrower to pay the debt. The holder of the debt is taxable upon the value of the debt. If the property of the borrower is assessed at its full value, without any deduction for what he owes, whether its payment is secured by any lien or charge upon his property or not, perhaps he may complain of undue or double taxation; and it seems that there is no difference, in this respect, whether the lender holds only the promise of the borrower, which may be enforced against his property by proper legal proceedings, or has a lien upon his real or personal property by judgment or the levy of an execution, or whether he has a specific lien by virtue of a mortgage, pledge, deed of trust, etc. But it is useless for us to express an opinion upon these questions so far as they relate to the borrower, for it would be a mere obiter dictum. The lender has no legal cause to complain that the borrower suffers the wrong of double taxation, or of being taxed for more than the value of his property after deducting the liens, charges, or incumbrances thereon. A decision in this case of questions of that character would not have the force of authority.
“Another question, and one of much greater impor