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Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Minn. Comm'r of Revenue

Supreme Court of the United States

January 12, 1983, Argued ; March 29, 1983, Decided

No. 81-1839

Opinion

 [*576]   [***299]   [**1367]  JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court. 2

 This case [****5]  presents the question of a State's power to impose a special tax on the press and, by enacting exemptions, to limit its effect to only a few newspapers.

 [*577]  I

Since 1967, Minnesota has imposed a sales tax on most sales of goods for a price in excess of a nominal sum. 3 Act of June 1, 1967, ch. 32, Art. XIII, § 2, 1967 Minn. Laws 2143, 2179, codified at Minn. Stat. § 297A.02 (1982). In general, the tax applies only to retail sales. Ibid. An exemption for industrial and agricultural users shields from the tax sales of components to be used in the production of goods that will themselves be sold at retail. § 297A.25(1)(h). As part of this general system of taxation and in support of the sales tax, see Minn. Code of Agency Rules, Tax S. & U 300 (1979), Minnesota also enacted a tax on the "privilege of using, storing or consuming in Minnesota tangible personal property." This use tax applies to any nonexempt tangible personal property unless the sales tax was paid on the sales price. Minn. Stat. § 297A.14 (1982). Like the classic use tax, this use tax protects the State's sales tax by eliminating the residents'  [**1368]  incentive to travel to States with lower sales  [****6]  taxes to buy goods rather than buying them in Minnesota. §§ 297A.14, 297A.24.

The appellant, Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co., "Star Tribune," is the publisher of a morning newspaper  [***300]  and an evening newspaper (until 1982) in Minneapolis. From 1967 until 1971, it enjoyed an exemption from the sales and use tax provided by Minnesota for periodic publications. 1967 Minn. Laws 2187, codified at Minn. Stat. § 297A.25(1)(i) (1982). In 1971, however, while leaving the exemption from the sales tax in place, the legislature amended the scheme to impose a "use tax" on the cost of paper and ink products consumed in the production of a publication. Act of Oct. 31, 1971, ch. 31, Art. I, § 5, 1971 Minn. Laws 2561, 2565, codified  [*578]  with modifications at Minn. Stat. §§ 297A.14, 297A.25(1)(i)  [****7]  (1982). Ink and paper used in publications became the only items subject to the use tax that were components of goods to be sold at retail. In 1974, the legislature again amended the statute, this time to exempt the first $ 100,000 worth of ink and paper consumed by a publication in any calendar year, in effect giving each publication an annual tax credit of $ 4,000. Act of May 24, 1973, ch. 650, Art. XIII, § 1, 1973 Minn. Laws 1606, 1637, codified at Minn. Stat. § 297A.14 (1982). 4 Publications remained exempt from the sales tax, § 2, 1973 Minn. Laws 1639.

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460 U.S. 575 *; 103 S. Ct. 1365 **; 75 L. Ed. 2d 295 ***; 1983 U.S. LEXIS 6 ****; 9 Media L. Rep. 1369

MINNEAPOLIS STAR & TRIBUNE CO. v. MINNESOTA COMMISSIONER OF REVENUE

Prior History:  [****1]  APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF MINNESOTA.

Disposition:  314 N. W. 2d 201, reversed.

CORE TERMS

press, sales tax, use tax, newspapers, exemption, taxation, ink, sales, taxes, regulation, cases, circulation, differential treatment, singles, classifications, differential, burdens, imposes, publishers, retail, generally applicable, special treatment, burdensome, abridging, censorial, sanctions, taxpayer, violates, courts, freedom of the press

Tax Law, State & Local Taxes, Use Taxes, General Overview, Public Utility Taxes, Imposition of Tax, Constitutional Law, Freedom of Speech, Free Press, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Freedoms, Sales Taxes, Exempt Sales, Limitations on Tax, Equal Protection, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Administration & Procedure, Political Speech, Judicial & Legislative Restraints, Scope