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Tarzian v. United States

February 7, 1957


Author: Swaim

Before FINNEGAN, LINDLEY and SWAIM, Circuit Judges.

SWAIM, Circuit Judge.

This was an action by plaintiff-taxpayer to recover allegedly erroneously as sessed income tax. The question on this appeal is whether the District Court properly granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C.A.

This cause arose out of the government's disallowance of depreciation deductions to plaintiff on certain patent rights acquired by it from its sole stockholders. The pleadings, interrogatories and answers thereto on file, together with the affidavits of both parties, reveal the following pertinent facts: Prior to the organization of plaintiff on September 1, 1949, Sarkes and Mary Tarzian, husband and wife, were partners in a consulting engineering business. Sarkes Tarzian owned a two-thirds interest and Mary, a one-third interest. Part of their work was concerned with the development of an automatic tuning mechanism for television receiving sets, and two patent applications were filed in connection with a tuner. The partnership began to manufacture tuners in quantity, and when it became apparent that most television manufacturers preferred to buy tuners rather than manufacture them, the partners shifted their primary business from consulting engineering to manufacturing, and by 1948 the manufacture of tuners had become a substantial business with the Tarzians. This development required large inventories and a change in accounting technique from cash to the accrual method for income tax purposes. In the year 1949 the Tarzians faced large tax payments, but most of their liquid assets were invested in the partnership and there was a felt need for funds to meet these tax obligations. The tuner manufacturing business continued to increase, and it is claimed that in order to obtain bank credit for business expansion it was necessary to isolate the profitable tuner business from other partnership activities, which in 1949 were not showing a profit and were considered financially hazardous; and, accordingly, the plaintiff was organized to take over the tuner business.

On September 1, 1949, plaintiff-taxpayer was duly organized and qualified to do business in the State of Indiana. Sarkes and Mary Tarzian became the sole stockholders, and president and secretary-treasurer, respectively. At the first corporate meeting on September 1, 1949, the board of directors approved five written contracts to be entered into between plaintiff and the stockholder-partners for the purpose of transferring the tuner business from the partnership to the corporation. Each of the authorized contracts was executed on the same date.

By the terms of the first contract the physical plant, work in process, machinery and backlog of orders for the tuners were transferred to plaintiff in exchange for such number of common shares of plaintiff as to give each share a value of $20.00 based upon the book value of the net assets of plaintiff on September 1, 1949. Accordingly, of the 10,000 authorized but as yet unissued common shares, 1,593 were issued to Sarkes and Mary Tarzian in the ratio of two to one, respectively - the same proportion as the partnership interests held by each. Excluded from the transfer under the terms of the first contract were cash on hand, real estate and interests in real estate, motor driven vehicles, patents, patent applications and inventions covered thereby, inventory of raw materials except work in process, accounts and loans receivable, corporate stocks and bonds, good will and business records.

By the terms of the second contract, the plaintiff acquired all right, title and interest in the two applications for letters patent and all rights incidental thereto. The purchase price was payable over a period of twenty years on the basis of 21/2 per cent of the sales price or 30 cents for each tuner sold by plaintiff, whichever sum was greater. In addition, the Tarzians were to receive 2 per cent of the selling price of any licensee of plaintiff or 10 cents for each tuner sold, whichever sum was greater.

By the terms of the third contract the stockholders loaned plaintiff $60,000 secured by promissory notes payable on demand with interest at the rate of six per cent after maturity. By the terms of the fourth contract they leased certain real estate to plaintiff for a term of five years, and by the fifth, they sold the partnership inventory to plaintiff.

On February 14, 1950, a patent was issued on one of the patent applications, and all tuners manufactured were covered by this patent.

Plaintiff took over production of the tuners on September 1, 1949, and in the ten-month period ending June 30, 1950, had a net income in excess of $2,000,000. During this period plaintiff repaid the loan of $60,000 in full and paid the purchase price for the inventory in the amount of $96,722.97.

The terms of the patent sales contract were not complied with. According to the contract, amounts payable were to be computed quarterly and paid within sixty days of each quarterly period. The payments for the first three periods were not timely, the amounts being accrued and ultimately paid on September 13, 1950. The payments for the next two periods were also tardy and were not made until June 22, 1951. Plaintiff deducted the entire amount of $156,819.96 paid on September 13, 1950, on its tax return for the period ended June 30, 1950, as depreciation of the patent applications. The Commissioner informed plaintiff that of this amount $49,047.10 would be allowed as amortization of the patent and the remainder was disallowed. Plaintiff paid the deficiency and filed a claim for refund. Thereupon, the Commissioner disallowed the $49,047.10 previously allowed as amortization of the patent, and the resulting deficiency was paid by plaintiff.

The original contract of September 1, 1949, for the sale of the patent applications was revised on January 15, 1951, to provide that plaintiff could discharge its contract obligation upon payment of $750,000 in addition to the amounts already paid or accrued to December 31, 1950 - $275,085.92. The sum of $10,000 payable on or before March 15, 1951, was paid. The sum of $140,000 payable by January 1, 1952, has never been paid. In lieu thereof a note in the amount of $140,000 was issued to the Tarzians. This note was subordinated in right to any and all indebtedness existing or which may exist for any monies borrowed from the Harris Trust and Savings Bank and any and all banks that may participate with the aforesaid bank in lending monies to plaintiff. The Tarzians also agreed to subordinate their rights to all future payments of the patent purchase price under the revised contract to the claims of the Harris Trust and Savings Bank. The remaining $600,000 was payable in four equal annual in stallments of $150,000 beginning January 1, 1953. When this action was commenced the note was still unsatisfied and no payments had been made on the $600,000 balance.

Plaintiff has not from the date of incorporation to the present time distributed any dividends. And the debt-capital ratio of plaintiff on September 1, 1949, indicates that it was inadequately capitalized.

It is the government's position that the patent applications were transferred to plaintiff solely in exchange for its stock or as a contribution to capital, so that the basis to plaintiff for depreciation was zero - the transferors' basis. Plaintiff contends that the tranfer was a bona fide ...

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