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McAhren v. Bradshaw

Supreme Court of Arizona

June 9, 1941

B. H. McAHREN, Superintendent of Motor Vehicles of the State of Arizona; and J. D. BRUSH, County Assessor of Maricopa County, Arizona, and Ex-Officio Deputy Superintendent of Motor Vehicles of the State of Arizona, Appellants,
v.
FRED B. BRADSHAW, Appellee

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of the County of Maricopa. Howard C. Speakman, Judge. Judgment reversed.

Mr. Joe Conway, Attorney General, Mr. A. R. Lynch, Assistant Attorney General, Mr. Richard F. Harless, County Attorney, Mr. Leslie C. Hardy and Mr. Charles B. McAlister, Deputy County Attorneys, for Appellants.

Mr. Ralph H. Walker, Mr. Rex Stewart and Mr. Jay Sigworth, for Appellee.

OPINION

[57 Ariz. 344] LOCKWOOD, C.J.

This is an action in mandamus by Fred Bradshaw, plaintiff, against B. H. McAhren, superintendent of motor vehicles of the State of Arizona, and J. D. Brush, county assessor of Maricopa County, Arizona, and ex-officio deputy superintendent of motor vehicles of the State of Arizona, defendants, asking that they be compelled to register an automobile belonging to plaintiff upon the payment of the $3.50 registration fee fixed by law, without the payment of any additional tax upon the automobile. The case was presented to the superior court which rendered judgment in favor of plaintiff, and from it this appeal was taken.

The sole question for our consideration is the construction of section 11 of article IX of the Constitution of Arizona as amended by the vote of the people of Arizona at the general election held in November, 1940. The article, as amended, reads as follows:

"The manner, method and mode of assessing, equalizing and levying taxes in the State of Arizona shall be such as is prescribed by law.

Page 933

"Beginning January 1, 1941, a license tax is hereby imposed on vehicles registered for operation upon the highways in Arizona, which license tax shall be in lieu of all ad valorem property taxes on any vehicle subject to such license tax. Such license tax shall be collected annually by the registering officer at the time of application for and before registration of the vehicle each year and shall be (a) at a rate equal to the average ad valorem rate for all purposes in the several taxing districts of the state for the preceding year, but in no event to exceed a rate of four dollars on each one hundred dollars in value, and (b) during the first calendar [57 Ariz. 345] year of the life of the vehicle upon a value equal to sixty per cent of the manufacturer's list price of such vehicle, and during each succeeding calendar year upon a value twenty-five per cent less than the value for the preceding calendar year.

"In the event application is made after the beginning of the registration year for registration of a vehicle not previously registered in the state, the license tax for such year on such vehicle shall be reduced by one-twelfth for each full month of the registration year already expired.

"The legislature shall provide for the distribution of the proceeds from such license tax to the state, counties, school districts, cities and towns."

Plaintiff performed services in the military establishment of the United States and is, therefore, entitled to an exemption from ad valorem property taxes granted to him by section 2, article IX of the Constitution of Arizona, which reads as follows:

"(Tax exemption.) -- That there shall be exempt from taxation all federal, state, county and municipal property. Property of educational, charitable and religious association or institutions not used or held for profit may be exempt from taxation by law. Public debts, as evidenced by the bonds of Arizona, its counties, municipalities, or other subdivisions, shall also be exempt from taxation. There shall be further exempt from taxation the property of widows, honorably discharged soldiers, sailors, United States marines, members of revenue marine service, and army nurses, residents of this state, not exceeding the amount of two thousand dollars, where the total assessment of such widow and such other persons named herein does not exceed five thousand dollars; provided, that no such exemption shall be made for such persons other than widows unless they shall have served at least sixty days in the military or naval service of the United States during time of war, and shall have been residents of this state prior to January 1, 1927. All property in the state not exempt under the laws of the United States or under this constitution, or exempt by law under the provisions of this section shall be subject [57 Ariz. 346] to taxation to be ascertained as provided by law. This section shall be self-executing."

The issue turns upon which the tax set forth in section 11, supra, is an ad valorem property tax or an excise or license tax. If it is the former, it is admitted that the judgment of the superior court was correct. If it is the latter, the ...


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