828 F.2d 1324 (8th Cir. 1987), 86-1647, Mangels v. United States

Docket Nº:86-1647.
Citation:828 F.2d 1324
Party Name:Ruben W. MANGELS, Administrator of the Estate of Luella R. Mangels, deceased, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
Case Date:September 16, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 1324

828 F.2d 1324 (8th Cir. 1987)

Ruben W. MANGELS, Administrator of the Estate of Luella R.

Mangels, deceased, Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.

No. 86-1647.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 16, 1987

Submitted April 16, 1987.

Thomas C. Fritzsche, Bettendorf, Iowa, for appellant.

Michael C. Durney, of the Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for appellee.

Before ARNOLD and WOLLMAN, Circuit Judges, and BOGUE [*], Senior District Judge.

WOLLMAN, Circuit Judge.

Ruben W. Mangels, administrator of the estate of Luella R. Mangels (the estate), appeals from a district court judgment that denied a refund for overpayment of federal estate tax based on special use valuation of farmland under section 2032A of the Internal Revenue Code, 632 F.Supp. 1555. The district court held that the acts of the court-appointed conservator did not fulfill the material participation requirement for special use valuation under I.R.C. Sec. 2032A(b)(1)(C)(ii). 1 We reverse and remand

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for entry of judgment in favor of the estate.

I.

Luella R. Mangels (decedent) was physically and mentally incapacitated and unable to handle her own affairs throughout the entire period relevant to the determination of "material participation" under I.R.C. Sec. 2032A. 2 During that period (August 15, 1974, to August 15, 1980, the date of decedent's death), Northwest Bank & Trust Company (Northwest) served as decedent's court-appointed conservator. 3

As conservator, Northwest leased farmland owned by decedent in Scott County, Iowa, to third-party tenants 4 on a crop-share basis. Under the leases, Northwest and the tenant jointly participated in farm production decisions and equally shared the cost of fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide and seed. All machinery and implements used on the farm were furnished by the tenant. The farm was not used as a principal residence by the decedent, any member of her family, or any agent of Northwest during this time.

Northwest's farm activities during the 1974 to 1980 period included the following: (1) daily attention to farm market reports and execution of futures contracts as required, (2) quarterly physical inspection of the growing crop and of the farm ground for needed fence and tile repairs (approximately two hours per inspection), (3) monthly telephone or in-person contact with the tenant concerning the progress of the crop, cultivation, herbicide and pesticide decisions and miscellaneous operating problems (approximately one hour per month), (4) annual sessions with the tenant concerning cropping decisions and the prospective year's operating plan, including assistance in preparing tenant's operating loan application (one and one-half to two hours per session), (5) annual post-harvest analysis of the cash equivalent rental effect of annual crop-share proceeds (approximately four hours annually), and (6) occasional long-term management decisions. No agent or employee of Northwest performed any physical labor on the farm.

Decedent's share of the farm income was not classified as self-employment income on her annual income tax returns and no self-employment tax was paid on the farm income for the period 1974 to 1980. The failure to report the farm income as self-employment income was unintentional and occurred because Northwest lacked understanding of the complex provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and related regulations.

The farmland was originally included in the taxable estate at $424,000, its value as

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of the date of death. The estate claimed a refund of tax, electing special use valuation under section 2032A of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 on a quarter section of the farm operated by Ruben Mangels (Mangels), decedent's son, following her death. The section 2032A election, if allowed, would have decreased the value of the farm included in decedent's gross estate to $125,061, thereby reducing the taxable estate by $298,939. The parties have stipulated that all requirements for the election of the section 2032A valuation have been met except for the material participation requirement of section 2032A(b)(1)(C)(ii).

Based on the stipulated facts, the district court upheld the Commissioner's refusal to permit special use valuation of the farmland, holding that Northwest's activities did not constitute "material participation" in the operation of the farm as contemplated by I.R.C. Sec. 2032A(b)(1)(C)(ii). The court found that Northwest's participation "appears to have been no greater than that of the landlord in the typical crop-share lease arrangement * * * [and] not enough to constitute 'material participation' under the statute." Because the court resolved this issue in favor of the Commissioner, it did not decide whether the acts of the conservator were attributable to the decedent for the purpose of establishing material participation.

The estate argues on appeal that the district court erred in concluding that the level of Northwest's activity was insufficient to constitute "material participation." The estate further contends that Northwest's acts should be attributed to decedent for the purpose of satisfying the requirements of I.R.C. Sec. 2032A(b)(1)(C)(ii). The parties having stipulated to the facts below, we review the district court's application of the law to the facts de novo. Pursley v. City of Fayetteville, 820 F.2d 951, 953 (8th Cir.1987); In re Newcomb, 744 F.2d 621, 625 (8th Cir.1984).

We undertake our review by recalling the purpose of section 2032A(b)(1)(C)(ii), which is to reduce the estate tax liability that would otherwise result from the imposition on the estates of decedents owning family farms or other closely-held businesses the general rule that the fair market value of the property controls. This purpose has been well summarized by the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit:

In enacting 26 U.S.C. Sec. 2032A in 1976, Congress provided a limited exception to the aforementioned general rule with respect to the valuation for federal estate tax purposes of certain family farms and other closely-held businesses. * * * The basic intent behind this provision was to grant relief to heirs of family farms, who might otherwise find that valuation of their newly-inherited farmland at its...

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