Mr. O. Walker Taylor, of Boston, Mass., for petitioner.
Mr. Charles B. Rugg, Asst. Atty. Gen., for respondent.
Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.
William E. Walker of Taunton, Mass., died testate November 9, 1918. Petitioner, as executor of the [285 U.S. 165, 166] estate, paid the taxes imposed by the state in respect to the property which passed from the decedent. He also paid to respondent the federal estate taxes prescribed by the Revenue Act 1916, 39 Stat. 756, 778, which the Commissiner reckoned without deducting from the gross estate the taxes exacted by the state. The Circuit Court of Appeals denied his right to recover the alleged overpayment-the difference between the sum demanded and what would have been due if the claimed deduction had been allowed. 50 F.(2d) 787. The District Court had held otherwise. 42 F.(2d) 918.
Here the insistence is that to ascertain the net estate under section 203, Revenue Act September 8, 1916, it was necessary to deduct from the gross estate the tax paid to Massachusetts as required by chapter 65 of her General Laws. Also, that in the circumstances the Circuit Court of Appeals should not have decided this question of law.
The record shows that the court below properly considered and ruled upon the point of law. The District Court-where the cause was tried without a jury-had said of the state tax, 'There can be no question that it was legally deductible.' The amended declaration alleges that the Commissioner wrongfully refused to allow the deduction. The answer contains a general denial. The agreed statement of facts points out 'that in arriving at the value of the net estate upon which the said total tax was computed the Commissioner did not make any deduction or allowance for the amount required to pay the Massachusetts inheritance tax, which the estate was required to pay and did pay to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.' And the defendant asked the court to find as matter of law, 'Plaintiff is not entitled to recover anything of the defendant and his declaration must be dismissed with judgment for the defendant for his costs.' The trial court misconstrued the federal statute. [285 U.S. 165, 167] With his petition for appeal from its judgment, the defendant presented, among others, the following assignment of error: The District Court erred in holding: 'It is obvious that the United States had demanded and received a tax levied upon the estate of the plaintiff's testator in excess of the amount lawfully due. It is not the correct tax measured by the net estate in view of decisions of the court.'
The Revenue Act of 1916 (amended as to rates March 3, 1917, 39 Stat. 1000, 1002, and October 3, 1917, 40 Stat. 300, 324) imposed a graduated tax upon the transfer of the net estate, ascertained as directed by section 203, of every person dying thereafter.
The General Laws of Massachusetts (1921) volume 1, chap. 65, provide:
Manifestly, the state taxes paid by the executor were not permissible deductions, unless they were such 'charges against the estate, as are allowed by the laws of the juris [285 U.S. 165, 169] diction, ... under which the estate is being administered.' Charges against an estate are only such as affect it as a whole. They do not include taxes on the rights of individual beneficiaries. New York Trust Co. v. Eisner, 256 U.S. 345, 350 , 41 S. Ct. 506, 16 A. L. R. 660.
The Massachusetts statute by plain words places the real burden of the tax upon the legatee or other person who receives a decedent's property. Payments required of an executor are only preliminary; ultimately they must be met by the beneficiaries.
Decisions of the Massachusetts Supreme Court show with adequate certainty that the right of succession is the real object of the charge laid because of property which passes by will or under the laws relative to intestacy. The thing burdened is the right to receive. Attorney General v. Stone, 209 Mass. 186, 190, 95 N. E. 395; Magee v. Commissioner, 256 Mass. 512, 153 N. E. 1; Boston Safe Deposit & Trust Co. v. Commissioner, 267 Mass. 240, 166 N. E. 729; Coolidge v. Commissioner, 268 Mass. 443, 447, 167 N. E. 757. See Saltonstall v. Saltonstall, 276 U.S. 260 , 48 S. Ct. 225.
It is unnecessary for us to consider whether the petitioner filed a proper claim for refund within the period prescribed by the statute.
The challenged judgment is affirmed.