« ForrigeFortsett »
Opinion of the Court. 317U.S.
stallments," to the beneficiaries so much of the net income "as they in their sole discretion shall deem advisable, the undistributed portion of such income to be added to and become a part of the principal of the Trust Fund." After the fifteen years, the entire net income was to be paid to the beneficiary for and during her life.
Each trust provided for the devolution of the corpus to the issue of the beneficiary named in the instrument, and in default of such issue to the issue of the donor, and in default of issue of either to named educational or charitable institutions.
Two paragraphs relating to changes and amendments are important. They were the same in all the instruments and read as follows:
"Eighth. The Donor reserves and shall have the right at any time and from time to time to direct the Trustees to sell the whole of the Trust Fund, or any part thereof, and to reinvest the proceeds in such other property as the Donor shall direct. The Donor further reserves and shall have the right at any time and from time to time to withdraw and take over to himself the whole or any part of the Trust Fund upon first transferring and delivering to the Trustees other property satisfactory to them of a market value at least equal to that of the property so withdrawn.
"Ninth. During the life of the Donor, the said [wife and brother of the donor], or the survivor of them, shall have full power and authority, by an instrument in writing signed and delivered by them or by the survivor of them to the Trustees, to alter, change or amend this Indenture at any time and from time to time by changing the beneficiary hereunder, or by changing the time when the Trust Fund, or any part thereof, or the income, is to be distributed, or by changing the Trustees, or in any other respect."
154 Opinion of the Court.
Pursuant to the authority of paragraph ninth, the two trustees authorized in the trusts to make changes did provide on the 2d and 3d of August, 1935, respectively, for the cancellation and expunction of both the eighth and ninth paragraphs, set out above, and for the substitution of the following in lieu of the expunged ninth paragraph:
"Ninth. This Indenture and all of the provisions thereof are irrevocable and not subject to alteration, change or amendment."
The Commissioner does not claim that any trust income received after these amendments is attributable to the taxpayers.
In answer to the taxpayer's petition in No. 49 for the redetermination of the deficiencies, the Commissioner asserted the increase was required by the provisions of §§ 22, 166, and 167 of the Revenue Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 680. Section 22 was not raised by the Commissioner in his answer to the petition in No. 48. But the applicability of that section was raised by the Commissioner as appellee before the Circuit Court of Appeals (Helvering v. Gowran, 302 U. S. 238, 245). The contention in the Court of Appeals rested on the facts stipulated in the Board of Tax Appeals. On the rejection of that ground in the court below, the Commissioner was entitled to raise the question, as he did, in his petition for certiorari and rely on I 22 in this Court. Helvering v. Gowran, ibid, 246; cf. Hormel v. Helvering, 312 U. S. 552. So far as pertinent the sections are set out in the footnote below.*
* Text of statutes, id., 686,729.
"sec. 22. Gross Income.
(a) General Definition.—'Gross income' includes gains, profits, and income derived from salaries, wages, or compensation for personal service, of whatever kind and in whatever form paid, or from profesrions, vocations, trades, businesses, commerce, or sales, or dealings in property, whether real or personal, growing out of the ownership or use of or interest in such property; also from interest, rent, dividends, securities, or the transaction of any business carried on for gain or profit, or gains or profits and income derived from any source whatever. . . .
Opinion of the Court. 317 U. S.
The Board of Tax Appeals upheld the Commissioner's determinations that § 166 governed the trusts' incomes because the powers of the wife and brother, as trustees, under the ninth paragraph were sufficient to revest the funds in the grantors and because the trustees were without substantial adverse interests. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed this determination, Stuart v. Commissioner, 124 F. 2d 772, on its conclusion that under the law of Illinois "the wife and brother as trustees had no authority ... to revest the property in the grantor." The same reasoning led the appellate court to say that neither § 167 nor § 22 was applicable, except as to the income of the Douglas Stuart trusts actually used for the support of a minor child.
"sec. 166. Revocable Trusts.
Where at any time the power to revest in the grantor title to any part of the corpus of the trust is vested—
(2) in any person not having a substantial adverse interest in the disposition of such part of the corpus or the income therefrom, then the income of such part of the trust shall be included in computing the net income of the grantor.
"sec. 167. Income For Benefit Of Grantor.
(a) Where any part of the income of a trust—
(2) may, in the discretion of the grantor or of any person not having a substantial adverse interest in the disposition of such part of the income, be distributed to the grantor;
then such part of the income of the trust shall be included in computing the net income of the grantor."
154 Opinion of the Court.
The applications for certiorari were granted because of differing views in the courts of appeals as to the inclusion of the incomes of trusts with similar provisions in the gross incomes of the donors by virtue of the sections of the Act relied upon by the Commissioner. Altmaier v. Commissioner, 116 F. 2d 162; Fulham v. Commissioner, 110 F. 2d 916; Whiteley v. Commissioner, 120 F. 2d 782; Commissioner v. Buck, 120 F. 2d 775.
To reach a decision as to the applicability of §§ 166 and 167 of the Revenue Act of 1934 (see footnote, p. 159, supra) to these trusts, the instruments must be construed to determine whether the power to revest title to any part of the corpora in the grantors, or to distribute to them any of the income, lies with any persons not having a substantial adverse interest to the grantors. That construction must be made in the light of rules of law for the interpretation of such documents. The intention of Congress controls what law, federal or state, is to be applied. Burnet v. Harmel, 287 U. S. 103, 110; Lyeth v. Hoey, 305 U. S. 188, 194. Since the federal revenue laws are designed for a national scheme of taxation, their provisions are not to be deemed subject to state law "unless the language or necessary implication of the section involved" so requires. United States v. Pelzer, 312 U. S. 399,402-3. This decision applied federal definition to determine whether an interest in property was called a "future interest." When Congress fixes a tax on the possibility of the revesting of property or the distribution of income, the "necessary implication," we think, is that the possibility is to be determined by the state law. Grantees under deeds, wills and trusts, alike, take according to the rule of the state law. The power to transfer or distribute assets of a trust is essentially a matter of local law. Blair v. Commissioner, 300 U. S. 5, 9; Freuler v. Helvering, 291
Opinion of the Court. 317 U. S.
U. S. 35, 43-45.1 Congress has selected an event, that is the receipt or distributions of trust funds by or to a grantor, normally brought about by local law, and has directed a tax to be levied if that event may occur. Whether that event may or may not occur depends upon the interpretation placed upon the terms of the instrument by state law. Once rights are obtained by local law, whatever they may be called, these rights are subject to the federal definition of taxability. Recently in dealing with the estate tax levied upon the value of property passing under a general power, we said that "state law creates legal interests and rights. The federal revenue acts designate what interests or rights, so created, shall be taxed." Morgan v. Commissioner, 309 U. S. 78, 80 (a case dealing with the taxability at death of property passing under a general power of appointment). In this case, as in Lyeth v. Hoey,2 we were determining what interests or rights should be taxed, not what interests or rights had been created, and therefore applied the federal rule. Cf. Burnet v. Harmel, 287 U. S. 103, 110; Palmer v. Bender, 287 U. S. 551, 555; Heiner v. Mellon, 304 U. S. 271, 279; Helvering v. Fuller, 310 U. S. 69, 74. In this view the rules of law to be applied are those of Illinois. That state is the residence of the parties, the place of execution of the instrument, as well as the jurisdiction chosen by the parties to govern the instrument.
This was the view of the Circuit Court of Appeals. 124 F. 2d 772, 778. Their examination of the Illinois law
1 The incorporation of local law in federal tax acts has been repeatedly recognized. Cf. Crooks v. Harrelson, 282 U. S. 55 (Missouri real property excluded from federal estate tax because of state rule of law); Poe v. Seaborn, 282 U. S. 101 (community property laws); Uterhort v. United States, 240 U. S. 598, 603 (local law of wills).
2 305 U. S. 188, 193, 194 (exemption from income tax of funds received by an heir in compromise of litigation over a will as an inheritance, a result contrary to the law of the state of probate).