CITES BY TOPIC:  excise tax

Flint v. Stone Tracy Co., 220 U.S. 107 (1911):

"Excises are taxes laid upon the manufacture, sale or consumption of commodities within the country, upon licenses to pursue certain occupations and upon corporate privileges...the requirement to pay such taxes involves the exercise of [220 U.S. 107, 152]   privileges, and the element of absolute and unavoidable demand is lacking...

...It is therefore well settled by the decisions of this court that when the sovereign authority has exercised the right to tax a legitimate subject of taxation as an exercise of a franchise or privilege, it is no objection that the measure of taxation is found in the income produced in part from property which of itself considered is nontaxable...

Conceding the power of Congress to tax the business activities of private corporations.. the tax must be measured by some standard..."

[Flint  v. Stone Tracy Co., 220 U.S. 107 (1911)]


Merriam Webster Dictionary of Law, (c ) 1996

['ek-'siz, -'sis]

1: a tax levied on the manufacture, sale, or consumption of a commodity
(compare income tax, property tax)
2: any of various taxes on privileges often assessed in the form of a license or other fee
(see also Article I of the Constitution)
(compare direct tax)

[emphasis added]


Barron's Law Dictionary, Barron's, Copyright 1996, ISBN 0-8120-3096-6, p. 180.

“Broadly, “any kind of tax which is not directly on property or the rents or incomes from real estate.” 4A. 2d 861, 862. “An inland impost upon articles of manufacture or sale and also upon licenses to pursue certain trades, or to deal in certain commodities.”  184 U.S. 608, 617.  It is imposed directly and without assessment and is measured by amount of business done and other means.  161 So. 735, 738.  See tax [EXCISE TAX] [1]

“a federal tax imposed upon the purchase of certain items.  See excise.”

[Barron's Law Dictionary, Barron's, Copyright 1996, ISBN 0-8120-3096-6, p. 180.]


Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, p. 563:

"Excise tax.  A tax imposed on the performance of an act, the engaging in an occupation, or the enjoyment of a privilege.  Rapa v. Haines, Ohio Comm.Pl., 101 N.E.2d 733, 735.  A tax on the manufacture, sale, or use of goods or on the carrying on of an occupation or activity or tax on the transfer of property.  In current usage the term has been extended to include various license fees and practically every internal revenue tax except income tax (e.g., federal alcohol and tobacco excise taxes, I.R.C. 5011 et seq.)"

[Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, p. 563]


Bromley v. McCaughn, 280 U.S. 124 (1929)

“While taxes levied upon or collected from persons because of their general ownership of property may be taken to be direct, Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 157 U.S. 429, 15 S. Ct. 673; Id., 158 U.S. 601, 15 S. Ct. 912, this court has consistently held, almost from the foundation of the government, that a tax imposed upon a particular use of property or the exercise of a single power over property incidental to ownership, is an excise which need not be apportioned, and it is enough for present purposes that this tax is of the latter class. Hylton v. United States, supra; cf. Veazie Bank v. Fenno, 8 Wall. 533; Thomas v. United States, 192 U.S. 363, 370, 24 S. Ct. 305; Billings v. United States, 232 U.S. 261, 34 S. Ct. 421; Nicol v. Ames, supra; Patton v. Brady, 184 U.S. 608, 22 S. Ct. 493; McCray v. United States, 195 U.S. 27, 24 S. Ct. 769, 1 Ann. Cas. 561; Scholey v. Rew, 23 Wall. 331; Knowlton v. Moore, supra. See, also, Flint v. Stone Tracy Co., 220 U.S. 107, 31 S. Ct. 342, Ann. Cas. 1912B, 1312; Spreckels Sugar Refining Co. v. McClain, 192 U.S. 397, 24 S. Ct. 376; Stratton's Independence v. Howbert, 231 U.S. 399, 34 S. Ct. 136; Doyle v. Mitchell Brothers Co ., 247 U.S. 179, 183, 38 S. Ct. 467; Stanton v. Baltic Mining Co.,240 U.S. 103, 114, 36 S. Ct. 278.

It is a tax laid only upon the exercise of a single one of those powers incident to ownership, the power to give the property owned to another. Under this statute all the other rights and powers which collectively constitute [280 U.S. 124, 137] property or ownership may be fully enjoyed free of the tax. So far as the constitutional power to tax is concerned, it would be difficult to state any intelligible distinction, founded either in reason or upon practical considerations of weight, between a tax upon the exercise of the power to give property inter vivos and the disposition of it by legacy, upheld in Knowlton v. Moore, supra, the succession tax in Scholey v. Rew, supra, the tax upon the manufacture and sale of colored oleomargarine in McCray v. United States, supra, the tax upon sales of grain upon an exchange in Nicol v. Ames, supra, the tax upon sales of shares of stock in Thomas v. United States, supra, the tax upon the use of foreign built yachts in Billings v. United States, supra, the tax upon the use of carriages in Hylton v. United States, supra; compare Veazie Bank v. Fenno, supra, 545 of 8 Wall.; Thomas v. United States, supra, 370 of 192 U. S ., 24 S. Ct. 305.

It is true that in each of these cases the tax was imposed upon the exercise of one of the numerous rights of property, but each is clearly distinguishable from a tax which falls upon the owner merely because he is owner, regardless of the use of disposition made of his property. See Billings v. United States, supra; cf. Pierce v. United States, 232 U.S. 290, 34 S. Ct. 427. The persistence of this distinction and the justification for it rest upon the historic fact that taxes of this type were not understood to be direct taxes when the Constitution was adopted and, as well, upon the reluctance of this court to enlarge by construction, limitations upon the sovereign power of taxation by article 1, 8, so vital to the maintenance of the national government. Nicol v. Ames, supra, 514, 515 of 173 U. S., 19, S. Ct. 522.”

[Bromley v. McCaughn, 280 U.S. 124 (1929)]