United States Trust Co of New York v. Helvering, 453

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation307 U.S. 57,59 S.Ct. 692,83 L.Ed. 1104
Docket NumberNo. 453,453
PartiesUNITED STATES TRUST CO. OF NEW YORK v. HELVERING, Com'r of Internal Revenue
Decision Date17 April 1939

307 U.S. 57
59 S.Ct. 692
83 L.Ed. 1104
UNITED STATES TRUST CO. OF NEW YORK

v.

HELVERING, Com'r of Internal Revenue.

No. 453.
Argued March 3, 1939.
Decided April 17, 1939.

Page 58

Mr. Wilder Goodwin, of New York City, for petitioner.

Mr. J. Louis Monarch, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The sole question is whether proceeds of a War Risk Insurance policy payable to a deceased veteran's widow were properly included in his gross estate under a Federal estate tax.

The Federal estate tax in question1 included in a decedent's gross estate the amount in excess of forty thousand dollars received by 'beneficiaries (other than his estate) as insurance under policies taken out by the decedent upon his own life.' This veteran's total life insurance for beneficiaries other than his estate exceeded at death the statutory exemption of forty thousand dollars, if his War Risk Insurance policy payable to his widow in the sum of ten thousand dollars is included. The Commissioner assessed an estate tax measured by this excess. As decedent's executor, petitioner claimed that proceeds of the War Risk Insurance policy could not be included in the estate because of Section 22 of the World War Veterans' Act, 1924, providing that such 'insurance * * * shall be exempt from all taxation.'2 The Board of Tax Appeals upheld the determination of the Commissioner, and the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.3

Page 59

Congress has manifested a consistent policy in the Revenue Acts from 1918 to 1934, when the veteran died, by impositions of estate taxes upon transfers at death of proceeds of all life insurance (not payable to an insured's estate) in excess of forty thousand dollars. This has been in harmony with a general plan of graduating income and inheritance taxes to accord with the respective sizes of incomes and estates.4 And the Treasury Regulations have stated that 'The statute provides for the inclusion in the gross estate of * * * All insurance (not for the benefit of an estate) * * * to the extent that it exceeds * * * forty thousand dollars * * * The term 'insurance' refers to life insurance of every description, * * *.'5

But petitioner invokes the provision of the World War Veterans' Act, 1924, that insurance thereunder 'shall be exempt from all taxation.' An amendment to that Act of August 12, 19356 provides that 'Payments of benefits due or to become due * * * shall be exempt from taxation * * *.' However, this amendment served only to clarify the original provision for exemption, without more.7 Unless resort is had to enlargement by implication, this exemption means only that the proceeds or benefits of a War Risk policy are exempt from taxation.

Page 60

Exemptions from taxation do not rest upon implication.8

An estate tax is not levied upon the property of which an estate is composed. It is an excise imposed upon the transfer of or shifting in relationships to property at death.9 The tax here is no less an estate tax because the proceeds of the policy were paid by the Government directly to the beneficiary; the taxing power was nevertheless exercised upon 'the transfer of property procured through expenditures by the decedent with the purpose, effected at his death, of having it pass to...

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122 practice notes
  • Ahern v. Thomas, (SC 15845)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 18, 1999
    ...defined the federal estate tax as "an excise imposed upon the transfer of ... property at death." United States Trust Co. v. Helvering, 307 U.S. 57, 60, 59 S. Ct. 692, 83 L. Ed. 1104 23. A single tax rate schedule applies to the cumulative total of a decedent's lifetime and testamentary tax......
  • Estate of Brooks v. Comm'r of Revenue Servs., SC 19577
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 23, 2017
    ...v. State Tax Commission of New York , 309 U.S. 530, 538, 60 S.Ct. 635, 84 L.Ed. 909 (1940) ; United States Trust Co. v. Helvering , 307 U.S. 57, 60, 59 S.Ct. 692, 83 L.Ed. 1104 (1939). "[T]he estate tax as originally devised and constitutionally supported was a tax upon transfers." Fernande......
  • Oklahoma Tax Commission v. United States 8212 625, s. 623
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 14, 1943
    ...should be immune. This Court has repeatedly said that tax exemptions are not granted by implication. United States Trust Co. v. Helvering, 307 U.S. 57, 60, 59 S.Ct. 692, 693, 83 L.Ed. 1104. It has applied that rule to taxing acts affecting Indians as to all others. As was said of an excise ......
  • Mason v. United States, 417-70.
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • June 16, 1972
    ...of economic benefits and the privilege of transmitting or receiving such benefits. United States Trust Co. of New York v. Helvering, 307 U.S. 57, 60, 59 S.Ct. 692, 693, 83 L.Ed. 1104; Whitney v. State Tax Commission, 309 U.S. 530, 538, 60 S.Ct. 635, 638, 84 L.Ed. 909. In this case, for exam......
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122 cases
  • Ahern v. Thomas, (SC 15845)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 18, 1999
    ...defined the federal estate tax as "an excise imposed upon the transfer of ... property at death." United States Trust Co. v. Helvering, 307 U.S. 57, 60, 59 S. Ct. 692, 83 L. Ed. 1104 23. A single tax rate schedule applies to the cumulative total of a decedent's lifetime and testamentary tax......
  • Estate of Brooks v. Comm'r of Revenue Servs., SC 19577
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 23, 2017
    ...v. State Tax Commission of New York , 309 U.S. 530, 538, 60 S.Ct. 635, 84 L.Ed. 909 (1940) ; United States Trust Co. v. Helvering , 307 U.S. 57, 60, 59 S.Ct. 692, 83 L.Ed. 1104 (1939). "[T]he estate tax as originally devised and constitutionally supported was a tax upon transfers." Fernande......
  • Oklahoma Tax Commission v. United States 8212 625
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 14, 1943
    ...should be immune. This Court has repeatedly said that tax exemptions are not granted by implication. United States Trust Co. v. Helvering, 307 U.S. 57, 60, 59 S.Ct. 692, 693, 83 L.Ed. 1104. It has applied that rule to taxing acts affecting Indians as to all others. As was said of an excise ......
  • Mason v. United States
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • June 16, 1972
    ...shifting of economic benefits and the privilege of transmitting or receiving such benefits. United States Trust Co. of New York v. Helvering, 307 U.S. 57, 60, 59 S.Ct. 692, 693, 83 L.Ed. 1104; Whitney v. State Tax Commission, 309 U.S. 530, 538, 60 S.Ct. 635, 638, 84 L.Ed. 909. In this case,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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