Blair v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, No. 247

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHUGHES
Citation81 L.Ed. 465,300 U.S. 5,57 S.Ct. 330
Docket NumberNo. 247
Decision Date01 February 1937
PartiesBLAIR v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE

300 U.S. 5
57 S.Ct. 330
81 L.Ed. 465
BLAIR

v.

COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE.

No. 247.
Argued Jan. 5, 1937.
Decided Feb. 1, 1937.

Page 6

Messrs. J. F. Dammann and Wm. B. McIlvaine, both of Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

Mr. David E. Hudson, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

[Argument of Counsel from page 6 intentionally omitted]

Page 7

Mr. Chief Justice HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question of the liability of a beneficiary of a testamentary trust for a tax upon the income which he had assigned to his children prior to the tax years and which the trustees had paid to them accordingly.

The trust was created by the will of William Blair, a resident of Illinois who died in 1899, and was of property located in that State. One-half of the net income was to be paid to the donor's widow during her life. His son, the petitioner Edward Tyler Blair, was to receive the other one-half and, after the death of the widow, the whole of the net income during his life. In 1923, after the widow's death, petitioner assigned to his daughter, Lucy Blair Linn, an interest amounting to $6,000 for the remainder of that calendar year, and to $9,000 in each calendar year thereafter, in the net income which the petitioner was then or might thereafter be entitled to receive during his life. At about the same time, he made like assignments of interests, amounting to $9,000 in each calendar year, in the net income of the trust to his daughter Edith Blair and to his son, Edward Seymour Blair, respectively. In later years, by similar instruments, he assigned to these children additional interests, and to his son William McCormick Blair other specified interests, in the net income. The trustees accepted the assignments and distributed the income directly to the assignees.

The question first arose with respect to the tax year 1923, and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue ruled that the income was taxable to the petitioner. The Board of Tax Appeals held the contrary. 18 B.T.A. 69. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the Board, holding that under the law of Illinois the trust was a spendthrift trust

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and the assignments were invalid. Commissioner v. Blair, 60 F.(2d) 340. We denied certiorari. 288 U.S. 602, 53 S.Ct. 386, 77 L.Ed. 977.

Thereupon the trustees brought suit in the superior court of Cook county, Illinois, to obtain a construction of the will with respect to the power of the beneficiary of the trust to assign a part of his equitable interest and to determine the validity of the assignments he had made. The petitioner and the assignees were made defendants. The Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, after a review of the Illinois decisions, decided that the trust was not a spendthrift trust and upheld the assignments. Blair v. Linn, 274 Ill.App. 23. Under the mandate of the appellate court, the superior court of Cook county entered its decree which found the assignments to be 'voluntary assignments of a part of the interest of said Edward Tyler Blair in said trust estate' and as such adjudged them to be valid.

At that time there were pending before the Board of Tax Appeals proceedings involving the income of the trust for the years 1924, 1925, 1926, and 1929. The Board received in evidence the record in the suit in the state court and, applying the decision of that court, the Board overruled the Commissioner's determination as to the petitioner's liability. 31 B.T.A. 1192. The Circuit Court of Appeals again reversed the Board. That court recognized the binding effect of the decision of the state court as to the validity of the assignments but decided that the income was still taxable to the petitioner upon the ground that his interest was not attached to the corpus of the estate and that the income was not subject to his disposition until he received it. Commissioner v. Blair, 83 F.(2d) 655, 662.

Because of an asserted conflict with the decision of the state court, and also with decisions of circuit courts of appeals, we granted certiorari. October 12, 1936.

First. The Government contends that the judgment relating to the income for 1923 is conclusive in this pro-

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ceeding as res judicata. Tait v. Western Maryland Ry. Co., 289 U.S. 620, 53 S.Ct. 706, 77 L.Ed. 1405. Petitioner insists that this question was not raised before the Board of Tax Appeals and hence was not available before the Circuit Court of Appeals. General Utilities Co. v. Helvering, 296 U.S. 200, 206, 56 S.Ct. 185, 187, 80 L.Ed. 154; Helvering v. Savage, 297 U.S. 106, 109, 56 S.Ct. 375, 376, 80 L.Ed. 511. The Government respondents that the answers before the Board of Tax Appeals in the instant case had been filed before the first decision of the Circuit Court of Appeals was entered, and that, while the case was heard before the Board without amended pleadings, the whole matter was actually before the Board and the question of res judicata was raised by an assignment of error on the petition for review before the Circuit Court of Appeals.

It is not necessary to review the respective contentions upon this point, as we think that the ruling in the Tait Case is not applicable. That ruling and the reasoning which underlies it apply where in the subsequent proceedings, although relating to a different tax year, the questions presented upon the facts and the law are essentially the same. Tait v. Western Maryland Ry. Co., supra, 289 U.S. 620, at pages 624, 626, 53 S.Ct. 706, 707, 708, 77 L.Ed. 1405. Here, after the decision in the first proceeding, the opinion and decree of the state court created a new situation. The determination of petitioner's liability for the year 1923 had been rested entirely upon the local law. Commissioner v. Blair (C.C.A.) 60 F.(2d) 340, 342, 344. The supervening decision of the state court interpreting that law in direct relation to this trust cannot justly be ignored in the present proceeding so far as it is found that the local law is determinative of any material point in controversy. Compare Freuler v. Helvering, 291 U.S. 35, 54 S.Ct. 308, 78 L.Ed. 634; Hubbell v. Helvering (C.C.A.) 70 F.(2d) 668.

Second. The question of the validity of the assignments is a question of local law. The donor was a resident of Illinois and his disposition of the property in that State was subject to its law. By that law the character

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of the trust, the nature and extent of the interest of the beneficiary, and the power of the beneficiary to assign that interest in whole or in part, are to be determined. The decision of the state court upon these...

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581 practice notes
  • Helvering v. Stuart, Nos. 49 and 48
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 16 Noviembre 1942
    ...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, 57 S.Ct. 330, 331, 81 L.Ed. 465; Freuler v. Helvering, 291 Page 162 U.S. 35, 43—45, 54 S.Ct. 308, 311, 312, 78 L.Ed. 634.1 Congress has se......
  • Apt v. Birmingham, Civ. No. 424.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • 25 Marzo 1950
    ...376, 50 S.Ct. 336, 74 L.Ed. 916 (husband taxable on income paid to wife under revocable trust agreement). Cf. Blair v. Commissioner, 1937, 300 U.S. 5, 57 S.Ct. 330, 81 L.Ed. 465 (assignment of beneficiary's interest in trust estate effective to render assignee taxable on income therefrom). ......
  • Caruth v. US, Civ. A. No. 3-84-0877-R.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • 20 Octubre 1987
    ...of income doctrine" took root in Lucas v. Earl, 281 U.S. 111, 50 S.Ct. 241, 74 L.Ed. 731 (1930); it grew under Blair v. Commissioner, 300 U.S. 5, 57 S.Ct. 330, 81 L.Ed. 465 (1937) and Helvering v. Horst, 311 U.S. 112, 61 S.Ct. 144, 85 L.Ed. 75 (1940); and it now covers a wide range of trans......
  • Herbert v. Riddell, No. 13096.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • 28 Febrero 1952
    ...a complete transfer of income producing property, the income is taxable to the transferee, when received. See, Blair v. Commissioner, 1937, 300 U.S. 5, 12, 57 S.Ct. 330, 81 L.Ed. 465; Helvering v. Horst, 1940, 311 U.S. 112, 117-119, 61 S.Ct. 144, 85 L.Ed. 75; Lum v. Commissioner, 3 Cir., 19......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
581 cases
  • Helvering v. Stuart, Nos. 49 and 48
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 16 Noviembre 1942
    ...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, 57 S.Ct. 330, 331, 81 L.Ed. 465; Freuler v. Helvering, 291 Page 162 U.S. 35, 43—45, 54 S.Ct. 308, 311, 312, 78 L.Ed. 634.1 Congress has se......
  • Apt v. Birmingham, Civ. No. 424.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • 25 Marzo 1950
    ...376, 50 S.Ct. 336, 74 L.Ed. 916 (husband taxable on income paid to wife under revocable trust agreement). Cf. Blair v. Commissioner, 1937, 300 U.S. 5, 57 S.Ct. 330, 81 L.Ed. 465 (assignment of beneficiary's interest in trust estate effective to render assignee taxable on income therefrom). ......
  • Caruth v. US, Civ. A. No. 3-84-0877-R.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • 20 Octubre 1987
    ...of income doctrine" took root in Lucas v. Earl, 281 U.S. 111, 50 S.Ct. 241, 74 L.Ed. 731 (1930); it grew under Blair v. Commissioner, 300 U.S. 5, 57 S.Ct. 330, 81 L.Ed. 465 (1937) and Helvering v. Horst, 311 U.S. 112, 61 S.Ct. 144, 85 L.Ed. 75 (1940); and it now covers a wide range of ......
  • Herbert v. Riddell, No. 13096.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • 28 Febrero 1952
    ...a complete transfer of income producing property, the income is taxable to the transferee, when received. See, Blair v. Commissioner, 1937, 300 U.S. 5, 12, 57 S.Ct. 330, 81 L.Ed. 465; Helvering v. Horst, 1940, 311 U.S. 112, 117-119, 61 S.Ct. 144, 85 L.Ed. 75; Lum v. Commissioner, 3 Cir., 19......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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