States forbidden to tax newspapers' ink, paper

March 29, 1983

Type: Newspaper article
Author: Associated Press
Source: Scottsdale Daily Progress
Link to original not currently available.
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Article Text

(Automatically generated)

States cannot
tax the paper and ink used in publishing
newspapers, the Supreme Court ruled today.
By an 8-1 vote, the Justices struck down such a
Minnesota tax as unconstitutional.
Writing for the court, Justice Sandra Day
O'Connor said the tax violates free-press rights
protected by the Constitution's First Amendment.
"Differential taxation of the press places such
a burden on the interests protected by the First
Amendment that we cannot countenance such
treatment unless the state asserts a counterbalancing interest of compelling importance that
it cannot achieve without differential taxation,"
O'Connor said.
She said Minnesota authorities had produced no sue 'compelling" interest.
Minnesota's "use" tax was levied only on ink
and paper used by publishers. Other businesses
that use thos products were not subject to the
Non-publishers pay a state retail sales tax on
goods they produce, and publishers are exempt from that sales tax.
The _tax was challenged in 1975 by The Minneapolis Star and Tribune Co., which at the time
published The Minneapolis Tribune and The
Minneapolis Star newspapers. Last year, the Star
was merged with the Tribune and ceased to exist
as a separate paper.
For a 17-month period beginning Jan. 1, 1974
the publishing company paid $874,265.04 in taxes
on the ink and paper it consumed. Its suit sought a
refund of that money and a halt to further imposition of the tax.
Today's Supreme Court ruling means the
publishing company will receive its sought-after refund and no longer must pay the tax.
In another ruling, a unanimous court ruled that
state officials are not entitled to routinely obtain
federal grand jury testimony to enforce antitrust
The justices rejected arguments from state and federal officials who said the grand jury
documents should be freely available to fight
antitrust violations, particularly on behalf of small