File No. 811.73/20.
The Secretary of State to the French Ambassador.
Washington, August 11, 1915.
Excellency: Referring to previous correspondence and particularly to your excellency’s note of May 28, 1915, and to this Department’s reply under date of July 7 last, in regard to the request of the Compagnie Française des Câbles that it be exempted from certain taxes imposed by the State of Massachusetts, the Department advises you of the receipt of a letter,4 dated the 19th ultimo, from the Secretary to the Governor of Massachusetts with which he encloses a communication received by him from the Massachusetts Tax Commisisoner from which it appears that the Compagnie Française des Câbles is a foreign corporation having a place of business within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, namely at Orleans and Lakeville; that under the provisions of the tax laws of Massachusetts foreign corporations are taxed on their tangible property situated within the Commonwealth (Chapter 516, Acts of 1909, section 2); that by the provisions of Chapter 458 of the Acts of the year 1913, poles, underground conduits and pipes, together with the wires therein or thereon are made subject to taxation as personal property by the local assessors; and that under the authority of these statutes the assessors of the town of Lakeville assessed the property of the Compagnie Française des Câbles situated within the town and are now moving for the collection of the tax. In consequence of this tax, the company raises the question as to whether it is, under the memorandum of agreement between the Governments of the United States and France, entitled to exemption from taxation in the State of Massachusetts. The tax commissioner states that it appears that local taxation is the only taxation in question and that the State of Massachusetts has always treated the business of the company as interstate business and not subject to the interference or control of the laws of that State; that no transit tax and no tax for the privilege of doing business has ever been levied upon the corporation in [Page 403]the State and that the tax imposed is one solely upon property situated within the State.
In the opinion of the tax commissioner there is technically nothing in the conditions of the agreement of 1879 between the Governments of the United States and the French Republic which controls the right of taxation by the State of Massachusetts, but that the spirit of the conditions and the act of reciprocity on the part of the Government of the French Republic in exempting from taxation the property of American cable companies doing business in France would seem to entitle the request of the Compagnie Française des Câbles to consideration.
In forwarding this opinion to the Department the Secretary to the Governor of Massachusetts suggests that the representative of the Compagnie Française des Câbles communicate and confer with the Massachusetts Tax Commission about the middle of December next in order that an amendment to the existing laws of Massachusetts may be formulated which would grant the exemption desired by the company.
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