Singling out one medium for taxation allowable
Singling out one medium for taxation while exempting others does not violate the First Amendment, as long as the taxation is neither censorial nor discriminatory, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently.
The 7-2 majority decision in Leathers, Commissioner of Revenues of Arkansas, v. Medlock determined that an Arkansas tax on cable television was not unconstitutional as it is part of a state general services tax. Other media are exempt from the tax.
The dissenting justices, however, found that singling out one medium for taxation leaves open the potential for governmental abuses.
The Leathers decision had repercussions for the newspaper industry beyond Arkansas, however, as the Court also acted on similar cases before it from other states.
A few days after the Leathers decision, the U.S. Supreme Court left in place an Iowa Supreme Court ruling that upheld a tax on magazines while exempting newspapers.
The Court also vacated a Florida Supreme Court decision that disallowed the distinction between magazines tax, however, the Florida court nullified the newspapers' exemption. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated the decision and ordered the Florida court to re-examine the case in light of the Leathers ruling.
"I think this is a pretty significant decision," National Newspaper Association general counsel Robert J. Brinkmann said of the Leathers ruling, adding it is particularly good for …