Constitutional Law – Import-Export Clause – Power of State to Tax Foreign Imports Supplying Current Operating Needs

Appellant imported from five countries iron ore which was stored at its processing plant and drawn upon to fill the current operational needs of the plant. When the ore arrived it was originally stored in stock piles containing a three-month supply. As needed, ores were conveyed from the stock piles to “stock bins,” holding one or two days’ supply and located in close proximity to the plant, from which the ores were used in the operation of the plant. The State of Ohio collected a personal property tax upon all the imported ore. In a companion case petitioner imported from Canada lumber and wood veneers which were stored at its manufacturing plant in their original packages and similarly drawn upon to fill the daily needs of the plant. The City of Algoma, Wisconsin, collected a general property tax upon the stored lumber and veneers. Both appellant and petitioner challenged the taxes, contending their imported materials were immune from state taxation under the clause of the Constitution which prohibits a state from taxing “imports.” The supreme court of each state sustained the respective taxes on the ground that the goods were no longer imports when the tax attached and thus not protected by the federal immunity. On appeal and certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, held, affirmed, two justices dissenting. When material is imported for manufacture and indiscriminate portions of it are being used to supply the current operating needs of a processing plant, the whole of such material is subject to state property taxation even though still in its original packages. Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Bowers; United States Plywood Corp. v. City of Algoma, 358 U.S. 534 (1959).