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UNION NAT. BANK OF PITTSBURGH v. DRISCOLL

April 8, 1940

UNION NAT. BANK OF PITTSBURGH et al.
v.
DRISCOLL; SAME v. UNITED STATES



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SCHOONMAKER

These two suits are to recover estate taxes alleged to have been overpaid by the executors of the Estate of Taylor Allderdice, deceased, who died on May 20, 1934. Part of the alleged overpayment was made to the defendant Collector in suit at Civil Action No. 409, and part to the Collector out of office at Civil Action No. 410. Therefore, two suits were necessary, one against Driscoll, Collector, and the other against the United States.

By agreement of the parties, both suits were tried together without a jury as one, and it was further agreed that the suit against the United States (Civil Action No. 410) be decided by the record in the suit at Civil Action No. 409.

 The plaintiffs have abandoned their claim set forth in paragraph 3(b) of the complaint for a deduction due to succession-taxes paid to the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario, Canada. The defendant concedes that the plaintiffs are entitled to deduct, as claims against the estate, the items set forth in paragraph 3(a) to (c) inclusive of the complaint, less the amount of the estate recovered from Norman Allderdice and from the estate of Lawrence Allderdice, deceased.

 The matters in dispute are: (1) the proper valuation of decedent's real estate at No. 5727 Wilkins Avenue, Pittsburgh; (2) the proper valuation of the common stock of the Pittsburgh Screw & Bolt Corporation; (3) was the amount of the widow's exemption allowed by the laws of Pennsylvania properly included in the valuation of decedent's estate subject to tax by the United States.

 I. Real Estate 5727 Wilkins Avenue Pittsburgh.

 In the estate tax return, this real estate was valued at $25,000. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue valued it at $35,000. The evidence offered by the plaintiffs establishes that the fair market value of this real estate was $15,400; and we so find. The defendant offered no controverting testimony. This property consists of a dwelling house, garage and land occupied by decedent in his lifetime as a residence. There was at the time of his death little or no market for property of this character. The house was built many years ago. We doubt whether it could be sold or rented. The value of the property rests almost exclusively in the land itself; the house would have to be torn down, as have many dwelling houses in this vicinity within the last few years. We have no hesitation in finding that $15,400 represents the fair market value of this real estate at the time of the death of decedent. This was established by real estate dealers familiar with the market value of real estate in the vicinity of this real estate. We cannot find either that the plaintiffs are concluded by the value placed on this property in the tax return.

 II. Stock of the Pittsburgh Screw & Bolt Corporation.

 This stock was reported in the estate tax-returns at a value of $7.75 per share. The Commissioner valued the stock at the same value in making the assessment. The standard of value contemplated by the taxing statute is the fair market value of the property at the date of death. This fair market value is defined as the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither under compulsion to buy or sell. Other less conclusive evidence of value is not resorted to in the determination of value when market value is evidenced by sales in a free, open, and active market in which prices are determined by supply and demand. See Standard Oil Co. v. Southern Pacific Co., 268 U.S. 146, 45 S. Ct. 465, 69 L. Ed. 890; United States v. New River Collieries, 262 U.S. 341, 43 S. Ct. 565, 67 L. Ed. 1014; Grant Co. v. Duggan, 2 Cir., 94 F.2d 859; Hazeltine Corp. v. Commissioner, 3 Cir., 89 F.2d 513; Commissioner v. Robertson, 6 Cir., 75 F.2d 540. The plaintiffs contend that there are factors in the instant case which take the case out of the general rule, i.e., the fact that only 100 shares of this stock were sold on the stock exchange on May 19, 1934, at $7.75, the day before decedent's death; and that 300 shares thereof sold on May 21, 1934, at $7.75 is not conclusive evidence that 25,748 shares of the stock would have sold in the open market at that time at that price. The plaintiffs offered evidence to the effect that if a block of that stock amounting to 25,748 shares had been offered in the open market at that time, not more than $6 per share could have been obtained from such sale.

 On this phase of the case, the defendant contends that there were no unusual or peculiar circumstances which would make this case an exception to the general rule. With this we agree. McNeil, plaintiffs' expert witness as to values, testified (R. 72) that the prices of this stock prevailing on the market at the time of the death of Allderdice were fair for the volume that was being traded; but that the price in the market should be discounted because of the volume of stock involved in this case.In this conclusion of the witness we cannot concur. On December 31, 1933, there was outstanding in the hands of the investing public, 1,434,553 shares of this stock. There were no facts in regard to the Pittsburgh Screw & Bolt Corporation, or market conditions existing in May, 1934, that were not available to investors at that time. From January 6, 1934, to May 18, 1934, 182,100 shares of this stock were traded on the New York Stock Exchange at prices ranging from $7 1/8 to $11 3/8. The weekly trading varied from a high of 36,900 shares to a low of 1,000 shares. From March 20, 1934, to May 20, 1934, 78,100 shares of this stock were traded in the New York Stock Exchange. The daily trading varied from 15,200 shares to 100 shares. These 15,200 shares were traded on April 3, 1934, when the market showed a net advance of $3.8 per share, and closed at $11 1/4 per share.

 We are of the opinion that the Commissioner correctly found that the fair market value of this stock, at the date of the death of Taylor Allderdice, was $7.75 per share. This view is supported by the opinion of Judge Maris in Hazeltine Corp. v. Com'r., 3 Cir., 89 F.2d 513, 519.

 III. The Widow's Statutory Exemption of $500 under Pennsylvania Law.

 Section 12 of the Pennsylvania Fiduciaries Act of 1917, P.L. 447, 20 P.S. § 471, provides: "Section 12. (a) The widow, if any, * * * of any decedent dying, testate or intestate, within this Commonwealth, * * * may retain or claim either real or personal property, or the proceeds of either real or personal property, belinging to [the] estate, to the value of five hundred dollars; * * *."

 The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that this exemption is not subject to the inheritance tax imposed by the Pennsylvania Act of July 11, 1917, P.L. 832, providing that "All estates * * * passing from any person * * * either by will or under the intestate laws * * * are * * * subject to the tax of two ($2) dollars on every hundred dollars of the clear value of such estates." See ...


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