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SULLIVAN v. UNITED STATES

November 30, 1978

William F. SULLIVAN and Rosemary C. Sullivan
v.
UNITED STATES of America



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KNOX

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The court is faced after a nonjury trial upon the merits with resolution of another facet of the ever recurrent contest between the government and the taxpayers with respect to long term or short term capital gains. The suit is concerned with the question of sale of land for a shopping center known as Eastland Shopping Center developed by the husband plaintiff William F. Sullivan. *fn1"

 Particularly we are concerned with Section 1221 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (26 U.S.C. ┬ž 1221) which defines capital assets as property held by a taxpayer whether or not connected with his trade or business with certain exceptions. The exceptions with which we are primarily concerned in this case are Section 1221(1) covering property held by a taxpayer primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of his trade or business and Section 1221(3) (A) covering copyrights or literary musical or artistic compositions held by a taxpayer whose personal efforts created such property. The sale of such assets was considered as ordinary gain or ordinary income by the tax gatherers. Other assets such as stocks, bonds, and investments in real property were considered as capital assets subject to the long term gain provisions of the Act. As is pointed out by the plaintiff it would appear that 1221(3) in his legislative history shows that it was intended to be limited to books or artistic works. See C.I.R. v. Ferrer, 304 F.2d 125 (2d Cir. 1962). A leasehold on the other hand is considered as qualifying as a capital asset. Commissioner v. Golonsky, 200 F.2d 72 (3d Cir. 1952).

 The facts are relatively simple. Mr. Sullivan bought the land in question on December 26, 1952. Beginning in the late 1950s he began to conceive of and work upon the project of putting together a large shopping center on the land and for this purpose he accumulated key leases such as those from Gimbels, J. C. Penney Company, Sears, Roebuck and Company, and other large merchandisers. On August 31, 1962, he sold the property. (See taxpayer's Ex. N) to a group of investors represented by Mr. Samuel Hyman. The property is located in North Versailles Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

 While it appears that the basic terms of the sale had been agreed upon between the parties on or about July 3, 1962, nevertheless the transaction was not finalized until August 31, 1962, when the deed was given by plaintiffs and a separate corporation East Arlington, Inc. owning a minor interest which had no particular significance in the transaction. The deed conveyed to one Rose Kaufmann, et al property in North Versailles Township including the shopping center and "all improvements, privileges, hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever thereunto belonging or in anywise appertaining, and the reversions and remainders, rents, issues and profits thereof; and all the estate, right, title, interest, property, claim and demand whatsoever . . . (of first parties)." This it will be observed is a deed for the fee and carries with it transfer of all the rents, issues and profits arising out of the real estate in question. The separate consideration for the deed was $ 250,000.

 Meanwhile, other developments had occurred with respect to the leases on the property including a separate agreement with Gimbel Brothers as to operation of their store on the premises. The plaintiff William F. Sullivan had beginning in the year 1961, begun to assemble other lessees who had agreed to open stores on the premises. Their leases are set forth in pretrial stipulation No. 8. *fn2"

 TABLE

 If these leases had simply been assigned at the time of the giving of th e deed and had there been no separate agreement or consideration with respect to them, this lawsuit probably never would have arisen. However, on August 31, 1962, by separate assignments, the Sullivans transferred their interests in the above leases for a total Separate consideration of $ 1,250,000 and this transfer creates the problem with which we are concerned.

 We find that up until the time of the sale in August, 1962 there had been no development of the property and though there had been some clearing and some foundation work but nothing in the nature of a building had been erected on the premises. This distinguishes the case from Paul v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 206 F.2d 763 (3d Cir. 1953) where a building had been partly erected more than six months before the sale and left uncompleted and thereafter was completed. It was held by the court that the taxpayer was entitled to a long term gain treatment on the building as it stood prior to the beginning of the six month period.

 The court finds that while the plaintiffs Sullivan were engaged in the buying and selling of real estate they were not engaged in the development of shopping centers as such and it is specifically found and not seriously contested by the government that property was not being held for sale in the ordinary course of business. It rather was being held by the taxpayers as an investment. It appears that the reason for Sullivan deciding to sell was that he had run into considerable zoning problems, financial problems and problems pertaining to traffic congestion in the area. He however did not attempt to approach Mr. Hyman to sell the property but was approached by Hyman.

 We further find as conceded by the government that on February 15, 1972, plaintiffs paid a total deficiency tax which had been asserted by the government in the amount of $ 293,904.60. Refund claims were thereafter duly filed by the taxpayers and it is admitted by the government that this suit for refund has been timely filed.

 Our conclusion that Mr. Sullivan was not holding the property primarily for sale to customers and hence that the profits do not amount generally to a short term gain is based upon the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Malat v. Riddell, 383 U.S. 569, 86 S. Ct. 1030, 16 L. Ed. 2d 102 (1966) wherein the court held that consideration should be given to the fact that the word in the statute is "primarily" and this means that the property owner must have a principal purpose in his mind of sale to customers and not the holding as an investment.

 Before we proceed further, the court should note that the government has previously contended in this case that the suit is barred by a document allegedly executed by the taxpayer at the time of a conference with the appellate division of the Internal Revenue Service. The government claims that this document Form 870AD (modified) contained language whereby the taxpayers agreed to pay a sum certain in settlement of their tax liability and further agreed that they would not sue for a refund. This court, after hearing the evidence on this matter preliminarily and considering arguments on plaintiff's motion to strike the testimony, has ruled that the plaintiff's motion should be granted, that the existence of the document has not been ...


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