Hutchins v. Comm'r of Corps. & Taxation

Citation172 N.E. 605,272 Mass. 422
Decision Date16 September 1930
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts


Appeal from Superior Court, Suffolk County; A. R. Weed, Judge.

Separate complaints, for the abatement of income taxes, by Edward W. Hutchins and another, trustees under the will of Francis D. Lecompte, deceased, and by Edward W. Hutchins and others, trustees under the will of Frank E. Lecompte, deceased, and by Charles L. Harrison and others, trustees, against Henry F. Long, Commissioner of Corporations and Taxation. Respondent's demurrer in each case sustained. The death of Edward W. Hutchins is suggested, and surviving complainants appeal.

Order sustaining demurrer in each case reversed, and demurrer overruled.G. Calkins, of Boston, for trustees under will of William A. slater.

H. Le B. Sampson and E. A. Howe, both of Boston, for trustees under will of Francis D. Lecompte, trustee under will of Frank E. Lecompte.

R. A. Cutter, Asst. Atty. Gen., for respondent.


These are complaints for the abatement of income taxes assessed to and paid by the complainants on account of net gains and profits received from purchases and sales of securities. The complainants in each of the three cases are trustees under the wills of testators domiciled outside this Commonwealth at the time of their respective deaths, and hold their appointments as trustees under courts of jurisdictions other than this Commonwealth. In the first two cases each testator died a resident of New York. The two trustees in the first case are residents of this Commonwealth. Two of the three trustees in the second case are residents of this Commonwealth and the other is a resident of Connecticut. In these two complaints it is alleged that the trustees were appointed by the appropriate court of the State of New York, that under the laws of the State of New York said trust, having been created by the will of a resident of New York and proved and allowed in a court of that State, is a resident trust, and the trustees irrespective of the places of their residences became liable to the State of New York for an income tax on the gains and profits here sought to be taxed, that the gains taxed by the defendant were subject to taxation in that State and that texes thereon have been assessed and paid, that the trustees, regardless of their residence, are accountable for the administration of their trusts to the courts of New York and are required by the law of New York to act as a unit in holding, owning and dealing with the property of the trust. In the third case the testator died a resident of the District of Columbia. The trustees, one a resident of this Commonwealth, one of New York and one of California, derive their appointments from the appropriate court of the District of Columbia. The trust is being administered by that court under and pursuant to the laws of the District of Columbia. The net gains and profits here taxed represent accretions of capital and not income. No part thereof has been or can be paid over to persons entitled to receive the net income of the trust during their lives or to any direct or contingent remaindermen until the termination of all the numerous life estates. In no one of the complaints is there an allegation as to the place where the trust property is physicially kept. In each case the income taxed was accumulated under the terms of the will for the benefit of unborn or unascertained remaindermen or persons with contingent interests. The defendant demurred to the complaint in each case. The demurrer was sustained with leave to amend, and in each case without amendment the complainants appealed. All the facts set forth in each complaint must be accepted as true for the purposes of this decision.

It is not necessary to state the testamentary provisions in each case with reference to its particular facts. It seems plain that the income upon which the tax was levied becamea part of a remainder ultimately to vest upon the happening of a contingency or in persons now unborn or not yet ascertained. Thomson v. Ludington, 104 Mass. 193;Clarke v. Fay, 205 Mass. 228, 91 N. E. 328,27 L. R. A. (N. S.) 454;Carr v. New England Anti Vivisection Society, 234 Mass. 217, 125 N. E. 159.

It is too plain for discussion that the tax in each case was assessed upon the excess of gains over the losses received by each trust from purchases or sales of intangible personal property and hence was income taxable at the rate of three per cent per annum if otherwise subject to taxation under our laws. G. L. c. 62, § 5 (c), as amended by St. 1922, c. 449 (see now St. 1928, c. 217, § 1). Tax Commissioner v. Putnam, 227 Mass. 522, 524-531, 116 N. E. 904, L. R. A. 1917F, 806;Brown v. Commissioner of Corporations and Taxation, 242 Mass. 242, 244, 136 N. E. 188.

It is provided by G. L. c. 62, § 10, so far as here material, that ‘The income received by estates held in trust by trustees, any one of whom is an inhabitant of the commonwealth * * * shall be subject to the taxes assessed by this chapter to the extent that the persons to whom the income from the trust is payable, or for whose benefit it is accumulated, are inhabitants of the commonwealth. Income accumulated in trust for the benefit of unborn or unascertained persons or persons with contingent interests shall be taxed as if accumulated for the benefit of inhabitants of the commonwealth.’ The question to be decided is whether the income is taxable upon the facts of each case under the part of section 10 just quoted.

The language of the section as mere matter of fair construction and interpretation covers the facts here stated and makes the income subject to the tax. The first sentence of the section renders subject to the tax such income received by resident trustees or by trustees appointed by a court of this Commonwealth as is payable to or accumulated for the benefit of inhabitants of this Commonwealth. Residence of the beneficiary within the Commonwealth is made the basis of the tax imposed by this sentence. The second sentence puts in the same classification for purposes of taxation income accumulated in trust for the benefit of unborn or unascertained persons or persons with contingent interests. In substance and effect it defines such beneficiaries as belonging to the same class as beneficiaries who are inhabitants of the Commonwealth. Those two sentences were somewhat separated in the original enactment of the income tax law, see St. 1916, c. 269, § 9 and were even more widely set apart by the amendments made by St. 1918, c. 207. But they were in substantially the same words and had the same meaning and effect. The revision whereby they were put in juxtaposition in the present section 10 wrought no change in meaning, but simply made their relation more clear.

Examination of the history of the parts of section 10 does not disclose any legislative purpose to make exceptions to its general phraseology. That section indicates an intention on the part of the General Court to tax all the income there described which is within its power to tax. It is as broad as the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. Kinney v. Treasurer & Receiver General, 207 Mass. 368, 369, 93 N. E. 586,35 L. R. A. (N. S.) 784, Ann. Cas. 1912A, 906;Peabody v. Treasurer and Receiver General, 215 Mass. 129, 130, 102 N. E. 435;Follett v. Commissioner of Corporations and Taxation (Mass.) 166 N. E. 575, 65 A. L. R. 143.

The question therefore is narrowed to the point whether there was jurisdiction in the Commonwealth, under the governing section of the statute, to levy the taxes here assailed.

The language of section 10 is broad enough to include taxation on income in the circumstances here in issue: ‘But it is a rule of law that a statute which would be unconstitutional as applied to a certain class of cases, and is constitutional as applied to another class, may be held to have been intended to apply only to the latter class, if this seems in harmony with the general purpose of the Legislature.’ Knowlton, C. J., Attorney General v. Electric Storage Battery Co., 188 Mass. 239, 241, 74 N. E. 467, 468,3 Ann. Cas. 631;W. & J. Sloane v. Commonwealth, 253 Mass. 529, 534, 149 N. E. 407, and cases cited.

The allegations of the complaints in the first two cases as we interpret them show that the laws of New York establish the situs of the trusts for the purposes of taxation in that State. The averments that in the circumstances disclosed the trusts were ‘resident trusts' in that State, that the trustees regardless of their residence are subject to taxation in that State for the same gains as have been here taxed, that they have been taxed therefor and have paid that exaction, and that the trustees are required to act as a unit in holding, owning and dealing with the trust property, are sufficient to require the conclusion that by the laws of that State the situs of each of the trusts arising under the wills of deceased residents of that State continues for purposes of taxation within that sovereign power. The trust on which the property is held in each case was created by judicial decree of a court of another jurisdiction. Its terms can be enforced only by the courts of that jurisdiction. They cannot be enforced by courts of this Commonwealth even though all the trustees might reside here. Jenkins v. Lester, 131 Mass. 355. Interpretation of the terms of the will ordinarily is not within the province of our courts. Emery v. Batchelder, 132 Mass. 452. There is nothing in these records to indicate that the trustees were obliged to resort to the courts of this Commonwealth for aid in the performance of any duty resting upon them under the trust. Bliss v. Bliss, 221 Mass. 201, 109 N. E. 148, L. R. A. 1916A, 889. Compare Baldwin v. Missouri, 281 U. S. 586, 593, 597, 50 S. Ct. 436, 74 L. Ed. 1056;Farmers Loan & Trust Co. v. Minn., 280...

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