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BULL v. UNITED STATES

April 29, 1935

BULL, EXECUTOR
v.
UNITED STATES



CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CLAIMS

Hughes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo

Author: Roberts

[ 295 U.S. Page 251]

 MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Archibald H. Bull died February 13, 1920. He had been a member of a partnership engaged in the business of ship-brokers. The agreement of association provided that in the event a partner died the survivors should continue the business for one year subsequent to his death, and his estate should "receive the same interests, or participate in the losses to the same extent," as the deceased partner would, if living, "based on the usual method of ascertaining what the said profits or losses would be . . . . Or the estate of the deceased partner shall have the option of withdrawing his interest from the firm within thirty days after the probate of will . . . and all adjustments of profits or losses shall be made as of the date of such withdrawal." The estate's representative did not exercise the option to withdraw in thirty days, and the business was conducted until December 31, 1920 as contemplated by the agreement.

The enterprise required no capital and none was ever invested by the partners. Bull's share of profits from January 1, 1920, to the date of his death, February 13, 1920, was $24,124.20; he had no other accumulated profits

[ 295 U.S. Page 252]

     and no interest in any tangible property belonging to the firm. Profits accruing to the estate for the period from the decedent's death to the end of 1920 were $212,718.79; $200,117.90 being paid during the year, and $12,601.70 during the first two months of 1921.

The Court of Claims found:

"When filing an estate-tax return, the executor included the decedent's interest in the partnership at a value of $24,124.20, which represented the decedent's share of the earnings accrued to the date of death, whereas the Commissioner, in 1921, valued such interest at $235,202.99, and subjected such increased value to the payment of an estate tax, which was paid in June and August 1921. The last mentioned amount was made up of the amount of $24,124.20 plus the amount of $212,718.79, hereinbefore mentioned. The estate tax on this increased amount was $41,517.45.*fn1

"April 14, 1921, plaintiff filed an income-tax return for the period February 13, 1920, to December 31, 1920, for the estate of the decedent, which return did not include, as income, the amount of $200,117.09 received as the share of the profits earned by the partnership during the period for which the return was filed. The estate employed the cash receipts and disbursement method of accounting.

"Thereafter, in July 1925 the Commissioner determined that the sum of $200,117.09 received in 1920 should have been returned by the executor as income to the estate for the period February 13 to December 31, 1920, and notified plaintiff of a deficiency in income tax due from the estate for that period of $261,212.65, which was due in part to the inclusion of that amount as taxable income and in part to adjustments not here in controversy.

[ 295 U.S. Page 253]

     No deduction was allowed by the Commissioner from the amount of $200,117.09 on account of the value of the decedent's interest in the partnership at his death."

September 5, 1925, the executor appealed to the Board of Tax Appeals from the deficiency of income tax so determined. The Board sustained the Commissioner's action in including the item of $200,117.99 without any reduction on account of the value of the decedent's interest in the partnership at the date of death,*fn2 and determined a deficiency of $55,166.49, which, with interest of $7,510.95, was paid April 14, 1928.

July 11, 1928, the executor filed a claim for refund of this amount, setting forth that the $200,117.99, by reason of which the additional tax was assessed and paid, was corpus; that it was so originally determined by the Commissioner and the estate tax assessed thereon was paid by the executor; and that the subsequent assessment of an income tax against the estate for the receipt of the same sum was erroneous. The claim was rejected May 8, 1929. September 16, 1930, the executor brought suit in the Court of Claims, and in his petition, after setting forth the facts as he alleged them to be, prayed judgment in the alternative (1) for the principal sum of $62,677.44, the amount paid April 14, 1928, as a deficiency of income tax unlawfully assessed and collected, or (2) for the sum of $47,643.44 on the theory that if the sum of $200,117.99 was income for the year 1920 and taxable as such, the ...


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