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HELVERING v. AMERICAN DENTAL CO.

decided: March 1, 1943.

HELVERING, COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE
v.
AMERICAN DENTAL CO.



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT.

Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson; Rutledge took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Reed

[ 318 U.S. Page 323]

 MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

This writ of certiorari brings here for review the question of the taxability, as income, of rent and interest on accounts owed by the taxpayer which were cancelled by its creditors.

The taxpayer, a corporation, respondent here, owed certain past due bills for merchandise. This indebtedness was represented by interest-bearing notes. Interest upon these notes had been accrued for the years prior to 1937 and deducted in the taxpayer's income tax returns, to the amount of $11,435.22. In November, 1936, the creditors agreed to cancel all interest accruing after January 1, 1932. The first entry on the taxpayer's books which records the cancellation appears in December, 1937, the tax year here involved, when over $16,000 was credited.

The taxpayer in December, 1933, also owed back rent amounting to $15,298.99. This back rent had been accrued as an expense. A new lease was negotiated at that

[ 318 U.S. Page 324]

     time and the lessor promised to make an adjustment of the accumulated obligation. The following April the lessor advised the taxpayer that he would accept $7,500 in payment of the back rent and would cancel the rest. The reduced sum was paid in February, 1937, by cash and notes which were met the same year. In 1937 the first entries were made on both the lessor's and the taxpayer's books, showing the partial forgiveness of the back rent.

The date of the book entries of the cancellations and the deduction of the interest for the whole of 1936 by the taxpayer led the Board of Tax Appeals to uphold the Commissioner's determination that the cancellation of all items of indebtedness involved here took place in 1937. This determination is accepted by us. Wilmington Trust Co. v. Commissioner, 316 U.S. 164, 168.

The taxpayer credited the total amount of the cancelled debts, $25,219.65, to earned surplus.*fn1 It did not return any of the sum as taxable income. No proof appears of the insolvency of the taxpayer before or after the cancellation. Its balance sheets show assets exceeding liabilities at the opening and close of 1937 with net assets greater than the asserted adjustment of income. Under these circumstances the Commissioner increased the taxpayer's reported income by $19,234.21, the sum of the items of the cancelled indebtedness which the Board of Tax Appeals found had served to offset income in like amounts in prior years. The taxpayer had accrued the rent and interest in former years. No claim for additional taxes is made by the Commissioner.

The taxpayer sought a redetermination on the ground that the cancellations were exempt gifts and that it was not enriched beyond the tax advantages gained by the deductions in former tax returns. The Board of Tax

[ 318 U.S. Page 325]

     Appeals found that the cancellations were not gifts, concluded that the tax benefits in dollars obtained by the deductions of former years did not limit the 1937 tax springing from the cancellation and affirmed the Commissioner's determination of a deficiency. The Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that the cancellations constituted exempt gifts. 128 F.2d 254. On account of a variety of ...


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