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decided: January 3, 1938.



Hughes, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo, Black

Author: Roberts

[ 302 U.S. Page 528]

 MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The issue in this case is similar to that presented in United States v. Andrews, ante, p. 517. The action was brought by the respondent in the District Court for Southern California to recover an alleged overpayment of income

[ 302 U.S. Page 529]

     taxes for 1919. There is no controversy as to the facts found by the trial court. The respondent, a California corporation, acquired a lease of oil property October 3, 1907. April 10, 1911, the directors resolved that all oil produced after January 1 of that year should be transferred in kind to the lessors to the extent of their royalty interest and to the company's stockholders pro rata to their respective holdings, so long as the latter should pay calls for money necessary to defray the company's expenses. The resolution remained in effect to and including the year 1919 and distribution of all oil produced was made accordingly. In its books of account and its return for income tax the respondent recorded at market value the oil produced and treated the difference between that value and the cost of production as income. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue followed the same method in computing taxable income. In its 1919 return the respondent disclosed a net income of $16,928.61 and a tax liability of $2,072.68 which was paid during the year 1920. The Commissioner, as the result of an audit, assessed an additional tax of $3,105.65 which was paid April 3, 1925.

March 30, 1929, within the four year period of limitations prescribed by the applicable statute,*fn1 the respondent filed a claim for the return of the additional tax so paid, based upon two grounds: first, that the respondent was entitled to an additional deduction of $12,500 for the amortization of the cost of a drilling contract with Union Oil Company by which the latter, in consideration of $250,000 par value of respondent's stock, agreed to provide expenses of developing the leased oil property, reimbursement to be made only out of oil produced; and, second, that, in respect of excess profits tax, its invested capital had been understated by failure to include the unrecovered cost of the same contract in the sum of $109,375.

[ 302 U.S. Page 530]

     While this claim was pending, but subsequent to the expiration of the period of limitation, the respondent filed a "Statement of Garbutt Oil Company . . . for the purpose of perfecting and completing claim for refund covering alleged overpayment of income tax for the calendar year 1919." Therein the respondent asserted that it "now develops that a further reason exists in support of" the pending claim since, by distribution of oil in kind, the respondent realized no taxable income during 1919, and that "it therefore follows that even though the specific grounds set forth in the claim for refund are denied said claim should, nevertheless, be allowed in full," for the reasons set forth in the statement. Refund was demanded of the entire tax paid for 1919 ($5,178.33) "or so much thereof as is properly refundable within the statute of limitations." August 12, 1929, the Commissioner wrote the respondent, concerning the merits of the original claim and the amendment, stating that a refund of $3,105.65 would not be allowed but that a hearing could be had upon the proposed rejection if requested in writing. On October 4, 1929, a conference was held but it does not appear whether the merits of the amendment were discussed. November 13, 1929, the Commissioner advised the respondent that the claim would be rejected on the merits and that the new contention embodied in the statement filed would be rejected as it was not referred to in the timely claim and was presented only after the expiration of the period of limitations and after the expiration of the time allowed to perfect informal claims, pursuant to a Treasury decision. Formal rejection of the claim was made November 21, 1929.

The respondent brought suit for the recovery of the $3,105.65, it being admitted that the remainder of the tax paid for the year 1919 could not be recovered because not claimed within the four year period specified in the statute. At the trial the grounds of the refund

[ 302 U.S. Page 531]

     claim originally filed were abandoned and recovery was sought upon the basis of the statement filed after the expiration of the statutory period of limitation. The court held that the latter did not constitute an amendment of the claim originally filed and came too late although it also found that the Commissioner had considered the late contention on its merits. Judgment was entered in favor of the United States. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding the statement filed as an amendment was germane to the original refund claim and that both were grounded in substantially the same facts.*fn2 We granted certiorari to resolve alleged conflict of decision.

In view of what has been said in United States v. Andrews, supra, it is necessary only to inquire in the instant case whether the original claim was specific and the so-called amendment ...

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