860P.512 Residence/12

The Minister in Latvia (Coleman) to the Secretary of State

No. 5840

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Legation’s telegram No. 98, of November 30, 11 a.m., 1928,2 concerning its efforts to induce the Latvian Government to remove the sojourn tax on Americans living in Latvia. The Department had instructed the Legation, in previous correspondence, to request the removal of this tax on the basis of paragraph 2 of Article I of the Treaty of Commerce and Consular Rights between the United States and Latvia,3 which reads as follows:

“The nationals of either High Contracting Party within the territories of the other shall not be subjected to the payment of any internal charges or taxes other or higher than those that are exacted of and paid by its nationals.”

The Latvian Government now maintains, as explained in the Legation’s telegram referred to above, that the tax in question is not an internal charge or tax within the meaning of the paragraph, but comes more properly under the provisions of the last paragraph of Article I of the same treaty, which reads as follows:

“Nothing contained in this treaty shall be construed to affect existing statutes of either of the High Contracting Parties in relation to the immigration, admission or sojourn of aliens or the right of either of the High Contracting Parties to enact such statutes.”

The Latvian Government points out, in this connection, that the law establishing taxes of this sort was signed on March 7, 1927, well before the conclusion of the treaty, and was thus an “existing statute” within the meaning of this provision.

In view of this position on the part of the Latvian Government, the Legation feels that the removal of the tax could be more easily and rapidly brought about if the request were made on the basis of reciprocity alone. Such a request could be made in the form of the Note outlined in the Department’s telegram No. 58, of September [Page 270] 25, 11 a.m., 1928.4 The only alteration would have to be the one already pointed out in the Legation’s despatch No. 5601, of October 3, 1928,5 that is, instead of stating that the Latvian Government granted exemption from sojourn taxes to nationals of certain countries, which is not strictly accurate, it might be stated simply that it granted reciprocity in regard to taxes of this kind. The remainder of the Note, with the Department’s permission, could read like the draft Note submitted with the Legation’s despatch of October 3, 1928.

There could not conceivably be any technical objection to compliance with such a request on the part of the Latvian Government, since one of the provisions of the same Law of March 7, 1927, reads as follows:

“A special tax can be levied on foreigners for the sojourn in Latvia and the departure from it. The amount of this tax shall be fixed by the Minister of the Interior in conjunction with the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The amount of the tax is based on reciprocity and may differ for citizens of different nationality.”

The Latvian Government, furthermore, could hardly regard a request made on this basis as an abandonment of the American Government’s position with regard to the interpretation of the Treaty, since there has as yet been no formal correspondence on the matter whatsoever, between the Legation and the Foreign Office.

In view of the fact that this matter has already been pending since last September, it is respectfully requested that the Legation be authorized telegraphically to transmit to the Foreign Office a Note as described above.

I have [etc.]

F. W. B. Coleman