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This is only natural, because it is these characteristics as a group rather than any one alone that is determinative of what is a tax. However, the point bears independent emphasis. Suburban Motor Freight, F.
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Public Benefit. In Cotton Petroleum Corp. State of New Mexico, U. Cotton Petroleum Corp. The fact that a fee generates a fund for public purposes has been held to make the fee a "tax" for bankruptcy purposes. See, e. Motley, F. However, that same court warned against reading the "public benefit" too broadly in determining what is a tax:. Public benefit is not the determining factor [in what is a tax for bankruptcy purposes], we stressed [in In re Jenny Lynn Mining Co. If this were the deciding factor, all such fees would be "taxes" for bankruptcy purposes.
We instead noted that "the deposit was required because the operator had requested a permit, and the permit bestowed a discrete benefit on the applicant — the privilege of operating a surface mine. In re Suburban Motor Freight, Inc. The court therefore also looked to the levy's "centralized and compulsory nature" for all similarly situated persons before concluding that it was a tax. Certain levies are not "taxes" raising revenues for public benefit when they are charges for use of public facilities.
Courts, and it should be added, legislatures, regularly exclude from the definition of "taxes," or at least from the prohibition of anti-tax laws, charges for use of public facilities.
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In Northwest Airlines, Inc. County of Kent, Mich. The provisions of the AHTA in question prohibited States and their subdivisions from levying a "fee" or "other charge.
Director of Taxation of Haw. The Court then found that, despite its broad language, the AHTA specifically exempted from its prohibitions "reasonable rental charges, landing fees, and other service charges from aircraft operators for the use of airport facilities. Similarly, the Supreme Court noted that "fees and charges limited in amount to the approximate cost of services rendered" are excluded from the definition of "import duties and taxes" in Art. Furthermore, courts in addition to the Union Pacific court have regularly distinguished between a levy that is a "tax" for public benefit and one that is instead a "regulatory fee.
Magnano Co. Hamilton, U. The First Circuit Court of Appeals explored the distinction between a "tax," which generates revenue for the public benefit, and a "regulatory fee," which earmarks funds for regulatory purposes in San Juan Cellular Telephone Co.
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The classic "regulatory fee" is imposed by an agency upon those subject to its regulation. See New England Power Co. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, F. It may serve regulatory purposes directly by, for example, deliberately discouraging particular conduct by making it more expensive. Or, it may serve such purposes indirectly by, for example, raising money placed in a special fund to help defray the agency's regulation-related expenses. Public Utility Commission, F.
Cuomo, 14 F. Travelers Ins. The court noted that courts often looked to the ultimate use of the revenue generated, whether that purpose is to provide a general benefit to the public or instead is used to benefit regulated companies or defray the costs of their regulation, as determining whether a charge was a "tax" or "regulatory fee. New England Tel. Cattanach, F. Nuclear Regulatory Comm'n, F. The court concluded that because the fee was assessed by an agency, not the legislature, the money was placed in a special fund, not the state's general fund, and was not used for a general purpose, but rather to defray the expenses of regulating entities within the agency's jurisdiction, it was not a "tax.
In State of Maine v. Department of the Navy, F.
However, in Trailer Marine Transp. Vazquez, F. The most common formula for classifying exactions under the Tax Injunction Act — asking whether the payment is a tax to raise general revenue or is a fee incident to regulation, see, e. State of Me. Supreme Judicial Court, ] F. In truth, the purpose of the fee here in issue is neither to raise general revenue for Puerto Rico nor to regulate conduct in the usual sense of the term. The accident-compensation statute is essentially a social welfare program and tort reform law to impose on motor vehicle owners as a class the cost of the accidents they cause and to assure compensation for accident victims.
Th[e] broad purpose [of providing the lifeblood of government] does not cleanly resolve a case, like this one, where the legislature does not call the measure a tax and the money is collected largely as dedicated transfer payments for the beneficiaries. Thus, the court applied all of the factors identified by this court and the San Juan Cellular Telephone Co. Admitting that it was a "close question," the court held that the levy was not a tax.
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In a similar vein is the conclusion of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that a fee must do more than pay the costs of regulation, but must also generate revenues that a municipality can use to offset unrelated costs or confer unrelated benefits, before it is a tax. Diginet, Inc. The court concludes that the provisions in question do not impose a "tax" on railroads to the extent that they authorize a cause of action to recover costs.
Under either test, a cause of action is not a fee or levy either to regulate or to raise revenue, but a means of recovering costs incurred by the board that, by law, should have been borne by the railroad. Nor do the provisions in question impose a "tax" on railroads under this court's "four-characteristics test" to the extent that they assess railroads for the part of a construction project, the culvert or bridge, that is merely coincidental to the public improvement.
Although the provisions in question are enacted by the legislature, they do not raise "revenue. If, on the other hand, the board is forced by the railroad's refusal to act to build the culvert or bridge itself, the board, if it prevails in a court action, will only be reimbursed for its actual construction costs.
Even if the recovery of costs could be construed to be "raising revenue," that revenue is not raised from a group of similarly situated persons, but from a single obligor.
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Although all railroads are subject to the provisions of chapter in question, railroads as a class are not subjected to any specific obligation. Rather, only those railroads whose rights-of-way are actually crossed by a drainage district facility that is being improved are individually subjected to the costs of the specific culvert or bridge needed by the individual railroad.
In this respect, the provisions of chapter in question here act more like a service charge or use fee which is imposed only upon the party obtaining the direct benefit. The charges to any particular railroad are limited in amount to the approximate cost of services rendered or facilities used. See Western Air Lines, U. For much the same reason, the revenue raised, if revenue it is, is not used for a public purpose. As in Vazquez, F. The costs imposed upon railroads as a class are the costs of the facilities they will use, but the imposition of those costs is not upon the class.
Rather, it is imposed on a railroad-by-railroad and project-by-project basis. Although the public may receive some benefit from the building of the culvert or bridge, because some provision must be made for the flow of water across a railroad right-of-way, a drain alone would serve the public purpose, while the railroad receives the principal benefits from the building of the facility necessary to carry the roadbed over the drainage improvement.
The right to cross over the drainage ditch comes at a cost. The Railroad must pay for and maintain the crossing. Furthermore, any revenues raised are not used to offset unrelated costs or confer unrelated benefits. Thus, under the court's "four-characteristics test," the provisions of chapter in question here do not impose a "tax" upon the Railroad. The general benefits only incidentally from the bridge or culvert; the primary benefit to the public comes from the drainage facility the bridge or culvert crosses.
The primary purpose of requiring the Railroad to bear the costs of the bridge or culvert is, obviously, to require the Railroad to bear the costs of additional facilities necessary to the Railroad. It is in this respect that the imposition of the costs of the bridge or culvert differs from the assessment of the costs of other improvements to rights-of-way, such as sidewalks, upon a property owner.
The court is quite willing to admit that the assessment upon a property owner for sidewalks is a tax. Like the provisions of chapter , which first offer the railroad the option of building the bridge or culvert rather than having the work done by the governmental subdivision, under the usual municipal ordinance, the property owner is given the alternative of putting in the sidewalk or being assessed the costs of having the municipality put it in. However, the resulting sidewalk is plainly for the public benefit; the culvert or bridge is just as plainly solely for the railroad's benefit.
The sidewalk is a public right-of-way.
The railroad's right-of-way is a private one. Even though there is no legislative history available, the court concludes that there are logical reasons for providing in the first instance for railroads, rather than the drainage districts, to build culverts or bridges over drainage improvements where those improvements cross railroad rights-of-way. First, the legislature could reasonably have believed that the railroad had superior information and superior design and construction expertise necessary to build a culvert or bridge adequate to carry the railroad's roadbed over the drainage improvement.
The legislature could also have deemed it appropriate to leave to the railroad the scheduling of such building to cause the minimum of disruption to railroad operations along the stretch of roadbed involved.