Goldstein v. CIR, 187

Citation364 F.2d 734
Decision Date22 July 1966
Docket NumberNo. 187,Docket 29957.,187
PartiesKapel GOLDSTEIN and Tillie Goldstein, Petitioners, v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, Respondent.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)

I. Meyer Pincus, New York City, for petitioners.

Jonathan S. Cohen, Atty., Dept. of Justice, Richard M. Roberts, Acting Asst. Atty. Gen., Lee A. Jackson, David O. Walter, Martin G. Goldblum, Attys., Dept. of Justice, for respondent.

Before WATERMAN, MOORE and FRIENDLY, Circuit Judges.

WATERMAN, Circuit Judge.

Tillie Goldstein and her husband1 petition to review a decision of the Tax Court disallowing as deductions for federal income tax purposes payments totaling $81,396.61 made by petitioner to certain banks, which payments petitioner claimed were payments of interest on indebtedness within Section 163(a) of the 1954 Internal Revenue Code. This section provides that "There shall be allowed as a deduction all interest paid or accrued within the taxable year on indebtedness." Int.Rev.Code of 1954 § 163(a).2 A majority of the Tax Court held for several reasons to be considered in the body of this opinion that these payments were not deductible. Goldstein v. Commissioner, 44 T.C. 284 (1965). We affirm on one of the grounds mentioned by the Tax Court.

During the latter part of 1958 petitioner received the good news that she held a winning Irish Sweepstakes ticket and would shortly receive $140,218.75. This windfall significantly improved petitioner's financial situation, for she was a housewife approximately 70 years old and her husband was a retired garment worker who received a $780 pension each year. In 1958 the couple's only income, aside from this pension and the unexpected Sweepstakes proceeds, was $124.75, which represented interest on several small savings bank accounts. The petitioner received the Sweepstakes proceeds in December 1958 and she deposited the money in a New York bank. She included this amount as gross income in the joint return she and her husband filed for 1958 on the cash receipts and disbursements basis.

Petitioner's son, Bernard Goldstein, was a certified public accountant, practicing in New York in 1958. In November of that year Bernard either volunteered or was enlisted to assist petitioner in investing the Sweepstakes proceeds, and in minimizing the 1958 tax consequences to petitioner of the sudden increase in her income for that year. A series of consultations between Bernard and an attorney resulted in the adoption of a plan, which, as implemented, can be summarized as follows: During the latter part of December 1958 petitioner contacted several brokerage houses that bought and sold securities for clients and also arranged collateral loans. With the assistance of one of these brokerage houses, Garvin, Bantel & Co., petitioner borrowed $465,000 from the First National Bank of Jersey City. With the money thus acquired, and the active assistance of Garvin, Bantel, petitioner purchased $500,000 face amount of United States Treasury ½% notes, due to mature on October 1, 1962. Petitioner promptly pledged the Treasury notes so purchased as collateral to secure the loan with the Jersey City Bank. At approximately the same time in 1958 Bernard secured for petitioner a $480,000 loan from the Royal State Bank of New York. With the assistance of the Royal State Bank petitioner purchased a second block of $500,000 face amount of United States Treasury 1½% notes, due to mature on October 1, 1961. Again the notes were pledged as collateral with this bank to secure the loan. Bernard testified that the petitioner purchased the Treasury notes because he believed "the time was ripe" to invest in this kind of government obligation. Also, pursuant to the pre-arranged plan, petitioner prepaid to the First National Bank of Jersey City and to the Royal State Bank the interest that would be due on the loans she had received if they remained outstanding for 1½ to 2½ years. These interest prepayments, made in late December of 1958, totaled $81,396.61.3 Petitioner then claimed this sum as a Section 163(a) deduction on the 1958 income tax return she filed jointly with her husband.

After reviewing these transactions in detail the Tax Court held the $81,396.61 was not deductible as "interest paid or accrued" on "indebtedness" under Section 163(a). In large part this holding rested on the court's conclusion that both loan transactions were "shams" that created "no genuine indebtedness." To support this conclusion the court stressed that, even though petitioner was borrowing approximately one half million dollars from each bank, the banks had agreed to the loans without any of their officers or employees having met petitioner or having investigated her financial position. The court noted that in each of the loan transactions petitioner was not required to commit any of her funds toward the purchase of the Treasury notes in their principal amount. And at several points the court appears to have attached great weight to the fact that most of the relevant transactions were apparently conducted by Garvin, Bantel and the Jersey City Bank, or by Bernard and the Royal State Bank, without petitioner's close supervision. Taking all these factors together, the Tax Court decided that, in fact, each transaction was "* * * an investment by the bank in Treasury obligations; wherein the bank, in consideration for prepayment to it of `interest' by a customer * * * would carry such Treasury notes in the customer's name as purported collateral for the `loan.'" 44 T.C. at 299 (italics in original). The court went on to say that "* * * if it is necessary to characterize the customer's payment, we would say that it was a fee to the bank for providing the `facade' of a loan transaction." Ibid.

There is a certain force to the foregoing analysis. Quite clearly the First National Bank of Jersey City and the Royal State Bank of New York preferred to engage in the transactions they engaged in here rather than invest funds directly in Treasury notes because petitioner's loans bore interest at an appreciably higher rate than that yielded by the government obligations. This fact, combined with the impeccable property pledged as security for the loans, may have induced these banks to enter into these transactions without all the panoply that the court indicates usually accompanies loan transactions of such size. Indeed, while on its face purporting to be a debtor-creditor transaction between a taxpayer and a bank, in fact there can be a situation where the bank itself is, in effect, directly investing in the securities purportedly pledged by taxpayer as collateral to taxpayer's obligation; in such a transaction the taxpayer truly can be said to have paid a certain sum to the bank in return for the "facade" of a loan transaction. For Section 163(a) purposes such transactions are properly described as "shams" creating no "genuine indebtedness" and no deduction for the payment of "interest" to the bank should be allowed. See cases cited note 5 infra. Cf. Knetsch v. United States, 364 U.S. 361, 81 S.Ct. 132, 5 L.Ed.2d 128 (1960).

In our view, however, the facts of the two loan arrangements now before us fail in several significant respects to establish that these transactions were clearly shams. We agree with the dissent below that the record indicates these loan arrangements were "* * * regular and, moreover, indistinguishable from any other legitimate loan transaction contracted for the purchase of Government securities." 44 T.C. at 301 (Fay, J., dissenting). In the first place, the Jersey City Bank and the Royal State Bank were independent financial institutions; it cannot be said that their sole function was to finance transactions such as those before us. Compare Lynch v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 273 F.2d 867 (2 Cir. 1959); Goodstein v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 267 F.2d 127 (1 Cir. 1959). Second, the two loan transactions here did not within a few days return all the parties to the position from which they had started. Ibid. Here the Royal State Bank loan remained outstanding, and, significantly, that Bank retained the Treasury obligations pledged as security until June 10, 1960, at which time petitioner instructed the bank to sell the notes, apply the proceeds to the loan, and credit any remaining balance to her account. The facts relating to the Jersey City Bank loan are slightly different: this loan was closed in June 1959 when the brokerage house of Gruntal & Co. was substituted for the Jersey City Bank as creditor. Gruntal received and retained the 1962 Treasury 1½'s originally pledged as security for the loan until December 1, 1959 when, pursuant to instructions from petitioner and her advisors, these notes were sold, and $500,000 face amount of United States Treasury 2½% bonds were purchased to replace them as security. Petitioner's account with Gruntal was not finally closed until June 13, 1960 when the last of these substituted bonds were sold, the petitioner's note was marked fully paid, and the balance was credited to petitioner. Third, the independent financial institutions from which petitioner borrowed the funds she needed to acquire the Treasury obligations possessed significant control over the future of their respective loan arrangements: for example, the petitioner's promissory note to the Jersey City Bank explicitly gave either party the right to accelerate the maturity of the note after 30 days, and it was the Jersey City Bank's utilization of this clause that necessitated recourse to Gruntal; the Royal State Bank had the right at any time to demand that petitioner increase her collateral or liquidate the loan, and on several occasions it made such a demand. Fourth, the notes signed by petitioner in favor of both banks were signed with recourse. If either of the independent lending institutions here involved had lost money on these transactions because...

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