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AGO 1954 No. 197 - February 03, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

AUTOMOBILE LICENSING OF MILITARY PERSONNEL

Military personnel are not subject to the vehicle license tax in the State of Washington.

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                                                                 February 3, 1954

Honorable Della Urquhart
Director of Licenses
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 197


Attention:
  !ttMr. Joseph P. Amundson,

            Assistant Director

Dear Mrs. Urquhart:

            On January 9, 1954, you requested an opinion from this office on the following question:

            Are United States military personnel, not residents of the State of Washington but stationed in Washington, required under the laws of the State of Washington to buy Washington State automobile licenses after the expiration of the license of their home state?

            It is our opinion that the answer is no, provided that they renew such licenses in their home states.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940 contains a section, U.S.C.A. Title 50, App. 574, entitled "Residence for tax purposes."  This section provides that a person does not lose his residence or domicile for tax purposes solely by reason of being absent therefrom in compliance with military or naval orders.  Subsection (2) provides:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "When used in this section, (a) the term 'personal property' shall include tangible and intangible property (including motor vehicles), and (b) the term 'taxation' shall include but not be limited to licenses, fees, or excises imposed in respect to motor vehicles or the use thereof:  Provided, That the license, fee, or excise required by the State, Territory, possession, or District of Columbia of which the person is a resident or in which he is domiciled has been paid."

            This statute has been construed in two recent cases.  Woodroffe v. Village of Park Forest, 107 Fed. Supp. 906 (1952) is a decision of the United States District Court of Illinois.  Woodroffe was an army captain, stationed in Chicago, whose home residence was in Pennsylvania.  The Village of Park Forest passed an ordinance requiring all owners of motor vehicles residing in the village to pay a vehicle tax.  The court held that the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act was applicable under these facts and denied tax liability.  The court went on to say:

            "* * * Moreover, personalty of such military person, which by this section includes a motor vehicle, shall not be considered to have a situs for tax purposes in any political subdivision, of which such person is not a resident provided that he pays the required license fees to that political subdivision of which he is a legal resident.  * * *"

            InDameron v. Brodhead, 73 S.Ct. 721, 345 U.S. 322, (1953) the soldier involved was a resident of Louisiana stationed in Colorado.  Colorado exacted a personal property tax which the soldier paid under protest.  He sued to recover the amount of the tax and upon appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, in an opinion delivered by Mr. Justice Reed, the court said:

            "The constitutionality of federal legislation exempting servicemen from the substantial burdens of seriate taxation by the states in which they may be required to be present by virtue of their service, cannot be doubted.  * * *"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The court then held that the State of Colorado could not collect such personal property taxes because of the provisions of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940.

            It is our conclusion that military personnel stationed in this state, but domiciled elsewhere, cannot be required to buy Washington State automobile licenses provided that they are properly licensed in their home states.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


CYRUS A. DIMMICK
Assistant Attorney General

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