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Arkansas Writers' Project, Inc. v. Ragland

481 U.S. 221 (1987)

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Arkansas Writers’ Project, Inc. v. Ragland

United States Supreme Court

481 U.S. 221 (1987)

Facts

Arkansas imposed a 4 percent state gross-receipts tax on sales of tangible personal property. The tax scheme exempted all newspapers as well as religious, professional, trade, and sports publications printed and published in Arkansas. Under the exemption, only a few Arkansas publications paid the sales tax. Arkansas Writers’ Project, Inc. (plaintiff) published a general-interest magazine, Arkansas Times, that covered a variety of subjects, including religion and sports, and was subject to the sales tax. The commissioner of revenue, Charles Ragland (defendant), argued that several state interests were advanced by the sales-tax scheme. These interests were raising state revenue; encouraging publishers seeking to establish new religious, professional, trade, and sports publications who were not yet in a position to raise significant advertising revenue; and fostering communication within Arkansas. Arkansas Writers’ Project filed a claim in Arkansas state court challenging the commissioner of revenue’s denial of a request for a refund of the sales taxes paid for the Arkansas Times. After summary judgment was granted in favor of Arkansas Writers’ Project, the commissioner of revenue appealed. The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed, and Arkansas Writers’ Project appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, J.)

Dissent (Scalia, J.)

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