Vaaler v. United States, 71-1134.

Citation454 F.2d 1120
Decision Date21 January 1972
Docket NumberNo. 71-1134.,71-1134.
PartiesPaul T. VAALER, Individually, and as Special Administrator of the Estate of Thelma T. Vaaler, Deceased, Appellees. v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellant.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)

Richard Halberstein, Atty., Tax Div., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., Johnnie M. Walters, Asst. Atty. Gen., Meyer Rothwacks, Bennet N. Hollander, Attys., Tax Div., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., for appellant; Harold O. Bullis, U. S. Atty., of counsel.

Robert Vaaler, Stokes, Vaaler, Gillig, Warcup & Woutat, Grand Forks, N. D., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Before MATTHES and LAY, Circuit Judges, and HUNTER, District Judge.

ELMO B. HUNTER, District Judge.

Presented on this appeal is the single question of whether $13,861.20 received by taxpayer-appellant, Paul T. Vaaler,1 from Sunshine Mutual Insurance Company upon termination of his general agency contract was gain received from the sale of a capital asset or ordinary income. The District Court held it was a capital asset sale, and entered judgment accordingly.

On March 1, 1947, Vaaler entered into a written contract with Sunshine in which he agreed to act as a general agent for Sunshine for approximately seventy-five percent of the State of North Dakota for which he was to be paid a five percent commission on net premiums written by all agents within the specified territory. The contract further provided Vaaler was to supervise and assist the present local agents, appoint new agents and close out agents not considered desirable by Sunshine. He was to pay his own expenses. In the contract it is stated that Sunshine was interested only in the results accomplished by Vaaler in providing more fire, extended coverage, wind and automobile insurance business in North Dakota, and that Sunshine was to have no control over his actions. He was specified to be an independent contractor and not an agent of Sunshine.

The contract provided that it "may be terminated at any time by giving 60 days written notice to the other party, or in case of the death of the agent. In the event of such termination of this contract the company shall have the first option to purchase from the agent or his estate all of his claims, interests and rights in policies in force in his territory on the date of termination and any renewals thereof for the sole consideration of five % on the increase in net premium volume from the date of this contract to the date of termination." The contract further specified that the basis for determining this increase would be on the assumption that there was $75,000 in net premiums written in Vaaler's territory during the twelve months prior to the contract date, and the $75,000 figure was to be compared with the actual net premium written during the twelve months immediately preceding the date of termination.

For approximately fourteen years Vaaler served as General Agent for Sunshine under the contract. During that time he appointed in excess of 148 agents for Sunshine and terminated a substantial number. On December 24, 1960, the contract was terminated by Sunshine effective February 28, 1961. Sunshine advised it was exercising its "option to purchase from the agent or his estate all his claims, interests and rights in policies in force in his territory on the date of termination and any renewals thereof."

The parties eventually determined that $13,861.20 was the amount owed under the contract, and on May 23, 1961, Sunshine paid that amount to Vaaler. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue viewed the payment as receipt of ordinary income rather than as a capital gain. After paying the resultant tax under protest, Vaaler filed suit for tax refund.

The pertinent statutory provision is contained in Section 1221 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (26 U.S.C. § 1221). That section defines the term "capital asset" to mean property held by the taxpayer, subject to certain named exclusions.

Over the years considerable case law has evolved to further illuminate the meaning of the term "capital asset."2 In Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Gillette Motor Transport, 364 U.S. 130, at 133, 80 S.Ct. 1497, at 1500, 4 L.Ed.2d 1617, at 1621, Mr. Justice Harlan writing for the Court said, "While a capital asset is defined in § 117(a) (1) as `property held by the taxpayer,' it is evident that not everything which can be called property in the ordinary sense and which is outside the statutory exclusions qualifies as a capital asset. This Court has long held that the term "capital asset" is to be construed narrowly in accordance with the purpose of Congress to afford capital-gains treatment only in situations typically involving the realization of appreciation in value accrued over a substantial period of time, and thus to ameliorate the hardship of taxation of the entire gain in one year. Burnet v. Harmel, 287 U.S. 103, 106, 53 S.Ct. 74, 75, 77 L.Ed. 199. Thus the Court has held that an unexpired lease, Hort v. Commissioner, 313 U.S. 28, 61 S.Ct. 757, 85 L.Ed. 1168, corn futures, Corn Products Ref. Co. v. Commissioner, 350 U.S. 46, 76 S.Ct. 20, 100 L.Ed. 29, and oil payment rights, Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. P. G. Lake, Inc., 356 U. S. 260, 78 S.Ct. 691, 2 L.Ed.2d 743, are not capital assets even though they are concededly `property' interests in the ordinary sense." And, as stated in C.I.R. v. Ferrer, 304 F.2d 125, 129 (2 Cir. 1962), "Section 117(a) of the 1939 Code, now § 1221 of the 1954 Code, 26 U.S.C.A. § 1221, tells us, not very illuminatingly, that `capital asset' means property held by the taxpayer (whether or not connected with his trade or business), but does not include four (now five) types of property therein defined. However it has long been settled that a taxpayer does not bring himself within the capital gains provision merely by fulfilling the simple syllogism that a contract normally constitutes `property,' that he held a contract, and that his contract does not fall within a specified exclusion, C.I.R. v. Gillette Motor Transport, 364 U.S. 130, 134-135, 80 S.Ct. 1497, 4 L.Ed.2d 1617 (1960); Surrey, Definitional Problems in Capital Gains Taxation, 69 Harv.L.Rev. 985, 988 (1956). This is easy enough; what is difficult, perhaps impossible, is to frame a positive definition of universal validity."

Even so, some helpful insight into the question is obtainable from the decisions in comparable or adjacent areas to that presently before us. In Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. P. G. Lake, Inc., 356 U.S. 260, at 266, 78 S.Ct. 691, at 695, 2 L.Ed.2d 743, at 749, concerning oil payment assignment situations, Mr. Justice Douglas speaking for the Court declared, "The substance of what was assigned was the right to receive future income. * * *...

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  • P v. United States
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • February 13, 2015
    ...or business reputation Mr. Duffy had as a consultant, he retained when he signed the Settlement Agreement. See Vaaler v. United States, 454 F.2d 1120, 1123 (8th Cir. 1972). Mr. Duffy may have intended to treat the payment of $50,000 as compensation based on "the damage inflicted on his [con......
  • Koss v. Commissioner
    • United States
    • United States Tax Court
    • July 11, 1989
    ...USTC ¶ 9556, 364 U.S. 130, 134-135 (1960) (right to use transportation facilities); Vaaler v. United States 72-1 USTC ¶ 9200, 454 F.2d 1120, 1122 (8th Cir. 1972) (right to render personal services as general agent). If all contracts granting rights could be considered capital assets, withou......
  • Michot v. Commissioner
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    • March 16, 1982
    ...sound. See Commissioner v. Gillette Motor Co. 60-2 USTC ¶ 9556, 364 U.S. 130 (1960); Vaaler v. United States 72-1 USTC ¶ 9200, 454 F. 2d 1120 (8th Cir. 1972); Bellamy v. Commissioner Dec. 27,216, 43 T.C. 487 (1965). Focusing on the spirit, rather than the letter, of the statutory capital ga......
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    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • May 1, 1974
    ...although "property" in the broad sense, could not be deemed as a capital asset under the circumstances. See also Vaaler v. United States, 454 F.2d 1120, 1122 (8th Cir. 1972). The Pounds court But where the taxpayer has only a right to share in the profits that might be realized, that intere......
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