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UNITED STATES v. FLANNERY ET AL.

decided: April 13, 1925.

THE UNITED STATES
v.
FLANNERY ET AL., EXECUTORS OF THE ESTATE OF JAMES J. FLANNERY, DECEASED



APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF CLAIMS.

Taft, Holmes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Sanford, Stone

Author: Sanford

[ 268 U.S. Page 99]

 MR. JUSTICE SANFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.

James J. Flannery bought, prior to March 1, 1913, certain corporate stock for less than $95,175. Its market value on March 1, 1913 was $116,325. He sold it in 1919 for $95,175, that is, for more than cost. He died in March, 1920. The executors of his estate in returning his income for the year 1919 deducted, as a loss, the difference between the market value of the stock on March 1, 1913, and the price received. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue disallowed the loss claimed, and an additional tax was assessed. The executors paid this under protest, and thereafter, a claim for refund having been denied, brought this action in the Court of Claims to recover the amount paid. Judgment was rendered in their favor. 59 Ct. Cls. 719.

The question presented is whether, under the income tax provisions of the Revenue Act of 1918,*fn1 a deductible loss was sustained by the sale of the stock in 1919 for more than it had cost, by reason of the fact that on March 1,

[ 268 U.S. Page 1001913]

     , between the dates of purchase and sale, it had a market value greater than the sale price.

This Act provided that net income should include "gains" derived from sales or dealings in property, §§ 212 (a), 213 (a); that there should be allowed as deductions "losses" sustained during the taxable year "incurred in any transaction entered into for profit", § 214 (a); and that "for the purpose of ascertaining the gain derived or loss sustained from the sale or other disposition of property . . . the basis shall be -- (1) In the case of property acquired before March 1, 1913, the fair market price or value of such property as of that date; and (2) In the case of property acquired on or after that date, the cost thereof . . ." § 202 (a).

The United States contends that under § 214 (a) there was no deductible loss whatever unless the taxpayer had sustained an actual "loss" in the entire transaction by selling the property for less than it had cost; and that the effect of § 202 (a) was merely that if such an actual loss had been sustained in selling property acquired before March 1, 1913, only so much thereof could be deducted as was sustained after the latter date, that is, the difference between the market value on that date and the sale price.

The executors contend, on the other hand, that § 202 (a) established the market value of such property on March 1, 1913, as the sole basis for ascertaining the loss sustained, without regard to its actual cost; and that if such market value was higher than the sale price, this conclusively determined that there had been a deductible "loss" in the transaction, and fixed the amount thereof at the difference between the market value on that date and the sale price.

It is clear, in the first place, that the provisions of the Act in reference to the gains derived and the losses sustained from the sale of property acquired before March 1, 1913, were correlative, and that whatever effect was intended to be given to the market value of property on

[ 268 U.S. Page 101]

     that date in determining taxable gains, a corresponding effect was intended to be given to such market value in determining deductible losses. This conclusion is unavoidable under the specific language of § 202 (a) ...


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