General Utilities Operating Co v. Helvering, No. 41

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMcREYNOLDS
Citation296 U.S. 200,56 S.Ct. 185,80 L.Ed. 154
Decision Date09 December 1935
Docket NumberNo. 41
PartiesGENERAL UTILITIES & OPERATING CO. v. HELVERING, Com'r of Internal Revenue

296 U.S. 200
56 S.Ct. 185
80 L.Ed. 154
GENERAL UTILITIES & OPERATING CO.

v.

HELVERING, Com'r of Internal Revenue.

No. 41.
Argued Nov. 15, 1935.
Decided Dec. 9, 1935.

Page 201

Messrs. Hugh C. Bickford and R. Kemp Slaughter, both of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

The Attorney General and Mr. James L. Monarch, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

January 1, 1927, petitioner, general Utilities, a Delaware corporation, acquired 20,000 shares (one-half of total outstanding) common stock Islands Edison Company, for which it paid $2,000. Gillet & Company owned the remainder.

During January, 1928, Whetstone, president of Southern Cities Utilities Company, contemplated acquisition by his company of all Islands Edison common stock. He discussed the matter with Lucas, petitioner's president, also with Gillet & Co. The latter concern agreed

Page 202

to sell its holdings upon terms acceptable to all. But Lucas pointed out that the shares which his company held could only be purchased after distribution of them among stockholders, since a sale by it would subject the realized profit to taxation, and when the proceeds passed to the stockholders there would be further exaction. Lucas had no power to sell, but he, Gillet, and Whetstone were in accord concerning the terms and conditions under which purchase of all the stock might become possible—'it being understood and agreed between them that petitioner would make distribution of the stock of the Islands Edison Company to its stockholders and that counsel would prepare a written agreement embodying the terms and conditions of the said sale, agreement to be submitted for approval to the stockholders of the Islands Edison Company after the distribution of said stock by the petitioner.'

Petitioner's directors, March 22, 1928, considered the disposition of the Island Edison shares. Officers reported they were worth $1,122,500, and recommended an appreciation on the books to that figure. Thereupon a resolution directed this change; also 'that a dividend in the amount of $1,071,426.25 be and it is hereby declared on the Common Stock of this Company payable in Common Stock of The Islands Edison Company at a valuation of $56.12 1/2 a share, out of the surplus of the Company arising from the appreciation in the value of the Common Stock of The Islands Edison Company held by this Company, viz., $1,120,500.00, the payment of the dividend to be made by the delivery to the stockholders of this Company, pro rata, of certificates for the Common Stock of The Islands Edison Company held by this Company at the rate of two shares of such stock for each share of Company Stock of this Corporation.'

Accordingly, 19,090 shares were distributed amongst petitioner's thirty-three stockholders and proper transfers

Page 203

to them were made upon the issuing corporation's books. It retained 910 shares.

After this transfer, all holders of Islands Edison stock sold to Southern Cities Utilities Company at $56.12 1/2 per share. Petitioner realized $46,346.30 net profit on 910 shares and this was duly returned for taxation. There was no report of gain upon the 19,090 shares distributed to stockholders.

The Commissioner of Internal Revenue declared a taxable gain upon distribution of the stock in payment of the dividend declared March 22d, and made the questioned deficiency assessment. Seeking redetermination by the Board of Tax Appeals, petitioner alleged: 'The Commissioner of Internal Revenue has erroneously held that the petitioner corporation made a profit of $1,069,517.25 by distributing to its own stockholders certain capital stock of another corporation which it had theretofore owned.' And it asked a ruling that no taxable gain resulted from the appreciation upon its books and subsequent distribution of the shares. Answering, the Commissioner denied that his action was erroneous, but advanced no new basis of support. A...

To continue reading

Request your trial
199 practice notes
  • Bankers Life and Cas. Co. v. U.S., No. 96-2260
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • April 17, 1998
    ...gain. That obscure convolution in the tax code was the General Utilities doctrine (from General Utilities & Operating Co. v. Helvering, 296 U.S. 200, 56 S.Ct. 185, 80 L.Ed. 154 (1935))--"was" because Congress extinguished the doctrine with the 1986 tax reforms. See Tax Reform Act of 1986, P......
  • Williams v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Com'n, No. 20200
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • October 8, 1968
    ...Associations Inc. v. United States, 364 U.S. 1, 15-17, 80 S. Ct. 1570, 4 L.Ed.2d 1527 (1960); General Utils. & Operating Co. v. Helvering, 296 U.S. 200, 207, 56 S.Ct. 185, 80 L. Ed. 154 (1935). 90 In re D.C. Transit Sys., Inc. (Order No. 564), supra note 12, continuing, with one minor excep......
  • Hillsboro National Bank v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue United States v. Bliss Dairy, Inc, Nos. 81-485
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 7, 1983
    ...the tax benefit rule.33 Section 336 was enacted as part of the 1954 Code. It codified the doctrine of General Utilities Co. v. Helvering, 296 U.S. 200, 206, 56 S.Ct. 185, 187, 80 L.Ed. 154 (1935), that a corporation does not recognize gain on the distribution of appreciated property to its ......
  • HILLSBORO NAT'L BANK V. COMMISSIONER
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 7, 1983
    ...rule. [Footnote 33] Section 336 was enacted as part of the 1954 Code. It codified the doctrine of General Utilities Co. v. Helvering, 296 U. S. 200, 206 (1935), that a corporation does not recognize gain on the distribution of appreciated property to its shareholders. Before the enactment o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
198 cases
  • Bankers Life and Cas. Co. v. U.S., No. 96-2260
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • April 17, 1998
    ...gain. That obscure convolution in the tax code was the General Utilities doctrine (from General Utilities & Operating Co. v. Helvering, 296 U.S. 200, 56 S.Ct. 185, 80 L.Ed. 154 (1935))--"was" because Congress extinguished the doctrine with the 1986 tax reforms. See Tax Reform Act of 1986, P......
  • Williams v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Com'n, No. 20200
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • October 8, 1968
    ...Associations Inc. v. United States, 364 U.S. 1, 15-17, 80 S. Ct. 1570, 4 L.Ed.2d 1527 (1960); General Utils. & Operating Co. v. Helvering, 296 U.S. 200, 207, 56 S.Ct. 185, 80 L. Ed. 154 (1935). 90 In re D.C. Transit Sys., Inc. (Order No. 564), supra note 12, continuing, with one minor excep......
  • Hillsboro National Bank v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue United States v. Bliss Dairy, Inc, Nos. 81-485
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 7, 1983
    ...the tax benefit rule.33 Section 336 was enacted as part of the 1954 Code. It codified the doctrine of General Utilities Co. v. Helvering, 296 U.S. 200, 206, 56 S.Ct. 185, 187, 80 L.Ed. 154 (1935), that a corporation does not recognize gain on the distribution of appreciated property to its ......
  • HILLSBORO NAT'L BANK V. COMMISSIONER
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 7, 1983
    ...rule. [Footnote 33] Section 336 was enacted as part of the 1954 Code. It codified the doctrine of General Utilities Co. v. Helvering, 296 U. S. 200, 206 (1935), that a corporation does not recognize gain on the distribution of appreciated property to its shareholders. Before the enactment o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 firm's commentaries
  • Maybe Tax the Rich, but Not The Conversion of S corps into Partnerships – What Gives?
    • United States
    • LexBlog United States
    • October 18, 2021
    ...received over that period from individuals who may now qualify for such benefit. [xiii] General Utilities & Operating Co. v. Helvering, 296 U.S. 200 (1935). [xiv] A property with a built gain, whether because the property’s basis was depreciated below its FMV or because the property’s FMV h......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT