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PHILLIPS v. DIME TRUST & SAFE DEPOSIT CO.

decided: November 23, 1931.

PHILLIPS, COLLECTOR OF INTERNAL REVENUE
v.
DIME TRUST & SAFE DEPOSIT CO., EXECUTOR



CERTIFICATE FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

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

Author: Stone

[ 284 U.S. Page 164]

 MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This suit was brought in the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, by the executor, to recover federal estate taxes alleged to have been illegally exacted. A jury having been waived, the court found the facts as stipulated and gave judgment against the collector. 30 F.2d 395. Upon appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, without deciding the case, certified here the questions involved, and, on joint motion of the parties, this Court ordered up the entire record. Jud. Code 239.

The only controversy presented relates to taxes levied and collected with respect to thirteen items of property, real and personal, concededly held by decedent and his wife as tenants by the entirety at his death in 1925. The applicable taxing statute is § 302 of the Revenue Act of 1924, 43 Stat. 253, 304, which provides that the gross value of the decedent's estate subject to tax shall include all property:

"(e) To the extent of the interest therein held as joint tenants by the decedent and any other person, or as tenants by the entirety by the decedent and spouse, or deposited, with any person carrying on the banking business, in their joint names and payable to either or the survivor, except such part thereof as may be shown to have originally belonged to such other person and never to have been received or acquired by the latter from the decedent for less than a fair consideration in money or money's worth: . . ."

This provision, without any variation of present significance, was in force under the 1916 and successive revenue acts. § 202, Rev. Act of 1916, 39 Stat. 756, 777-778; Rev. Act of March 3, 1917, 39 Stat. 1000; § 402, Rev. Act of 1918, 40 Stat. 1057, 1097; § 402, Rev. Act of 1921, 42 Stat. 227, 278.

[ 284 U.S. Page 165]

     The thirteen items of property with respect to which the tax was imposed may be classified in three groups, (1) property held upon tenancies by the entirety created after the effective date of the Revenue Act of 1924, (2) property held upon tenancies by the entirety created after the Revenue Act of 1916 and before the effective date of the Revenue Act of 1924, and (3) bank accounts opened in 1910 in the joint names of decedent and his wife, in which there were deposit balances at the date of his death.

The district court accepted the contention of the taxpayer that the nature of the estate by the entirety, and particularly the interest in it of a surviving tenant, are such as to preclude the imposition of death or transfer taxes measured by the value of the interest which ceases at the death of either tenant, and that the tax, if deemed to be upon property, is a direct tax not apportioned, forbidden by Art. I, § 2, Clause 3, and § 9, Clause 4, of the Constitution. After the decision of the district court, this contention was considered and rejected by this Court in Tyler v. United States, 281 U.S. 497, holding that a like tax imposed under § 202 (c), Rev. Act of 1916, was a valid indirect tax, measured by the value of the property, rights in which devolved upon the surviving tenant upon the happening of an event, the death of the other tenant by the entirety.

The controlling force of that decision is acknowledged as to the items of property in Group (1), acquired after the passage of the taxing act, and as to them it is conceded that the tax was rightly levied.

But it is urged that the tax imposed with respect to Groups (2) and (3) is invalid. As the creation of the tenancies by the entirety antedated the taxing act, and the earlier corresponding sections had been repealed, it is insisted that the statute is given a retroactive ...


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