PINELLAS ICE & COLD STORAGE CO. v. COM'R OF INT. REV.(1933)
[287 U.S. 462, 463] Messrs. Albert L. Hopkins and Jay C. Halls, both of Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.
Messrs. William D. Mitchell, Atty. Gen., and Whitney North Seymour, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.
Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioner, a Florida corporation, made and sold ice at St. Petersburg. Substantially the same stockholders owned the Citizens' Ice & Cold Storage Company, engaged in like business at the same place. In February, 1926, Lewis, general manager of both companies, began negotiations for the sale of their properties to the National Public Service Corporation. Their directors and stockholders were anxious to sell, distribute the assets, and dissolve the corporations. The prospective vendee desired to acquire the properties of both companies, but not of one without the other.
In October, 1926, agreement was reached and the vendor's directors again approved the plan for distribution and dissolution. In November, 1926, petitioner and the National Corporation entered into a formal written contract conditioned upon a like one by the Citizens' Company. This referred to petitioner as 'vendor' and the National Corporation as 'purchaser.' The former agreed to sell, [287 U.S. 462, 464] the latter to purchase the physical property, plants, etc., 'together with the goodwill of the business, free and clear of all defects, liens, encumbrances, taxes and assessments for the sum of $1,400,000, payable as hereinafter provided.' The specified date and place for consummation were 11 a.m., December 15, 1926, and 165 Broadway, New York City, when 'the vendor shall deliver to the purchaser instruments of conveyance and transfer by general warranty in form satisfactory to the purchaser of the property set forth. ... The purchaser shall pay to the vendor the sum of $ 400,000.00 in cash.' The balance of the purchase price ($1,000,000) shall be paid $500,000 on or before January 31, 1927; $250,000 on or before March 1, 1927; $250,000 on or before April 1, 1927. Also, the deferred installments of the purchase price shall be evidenced by the purchaser's 6 per cent. notes, secured either by notes or bonds of the Florida West Coast Ice Company, thereafter to be organized to take title, or other satisfactory collateral; or by 6 per cent. notes of such Florida company secured by first lien on the property conveyed, or other satisfactory collateral.
The vendor agreed to procure undertakings by E. T. Lewis and Leon D. Lewis not to engage in manufacturing or selling ice in Pinellas county, Fla., for ten years.
The $400,000 cash payment was necessary for discharge of debts, liens, incumbrances, etc. The Florida Company, incorporated December 6, 1926, took title to the property and executed the purchase notes secured as agreed. These were paid at or before maturity except the one for $100,000, held until November, 1927, because of flaw in a title. As the notes were paid petitioner immediately distributed the proceeds to its stockholders according to the plan.
The property conveyed to the Florida Company included all of petitioner's assets except a few vacant lots worth not more than $10,000, some accounts-$3,000 face value-also, a small amount of cash. Assets, not exceed- [287 U.S. 462, 465] ing 1 per cent. of the whole, were transferred to the Citizens' Holding Corporation as trustee for petitioner's stockholders-99 per cent. of all vendor's property went to the Florida Company. The plan of the whole arrangement as carried out was accepted by petitioner's officers and stockholders prior to November 4, 1926
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue determined that the petitioner derived taxable gain exceeding $500,000 and assessed it accordingly under the Revenue Act of 1926. The Board of Tax Appeals and the Circuit Court of Appeals approved this action.
The facts are not in controversy. The gain is admitted; but it is said this was definitely exempted from taxation by section 203, Revenue Act of 1926 (26 USCA 934).
The Act approved February 26, 1926, c. 27, 44 Stat. 9, 11, 12 ( sections 202, 203 (26 USCA 933, 934)):
All of section 203(a) and (b) of the act (26 USCA 934(a, b), is in the margin. 1
Counsel for the petitioner maintain-
The record discloses a 'reorganization' to which petitioner was party and a preliminary plan strictly pursued. [287 U.S. 462, 468] The Florida West Coast Ice Company acquired substantially all of petitioner's property in exchange for cash and securities which were promptly distributed to the latter's stockholders. Consequently, under section 203, the admitted gain was not taxable.
The Board of Tax Appeals held that the transaction in question amounted to a sale of petitioner's property for money and not an exchange for securities within the true meaning of the statute. It, accordingly and as we think properly, upheld the Commissioner's action.
The 'vendor' agreed 'to sell,' and 'the purchaser' agreed 'to purchase,' certain described property for a definite sum of money. Part of this sum was paid in cash; for the balance the purchaser executed three promissory notes, secured by the deposit of mortgage bonds, payable, with interest, in about forty-five, seventy-five, and one hundred and five days, respectively. These notes-mere evidence of obligation to pay the purchase price-were not securities within the intendment of the [287 U.S. 462, 469] act and were properly regarded as the equivalent of cash. It would require clear language to lead us to conclude that Congress intended to grant exemption to one who sells property and for the purchase price accepts well secured, short-term notes (all payable within four months), when another who makes a like sale and receives cash certainly would be taxed. We can discover no good basis in reason for the contrary view and its acceptance would make evasion of taxation very easy. In substance the petitioner sold for the equivalent of cash; the gain must be recognized.
The court below held that the facts disclosed failed to show a 'reorganization' within the statutory definition. And, in the circumstances, we approve that conclusion. But the construction which the court seems to have placed upon clause A, paragraph (h)(1), section 203 ( 26 USCA 934(h)(1), cls. (A, B), we think is too narrow. It conflicts with established practice of the tax officers and, if passed without comment, may produce perplexity.
The court said: 'It must be assumed that in adopting paragraph (h) Congress intended to use the words 'merger' and 'consolidation' in their ordinary and accepted meanings. Giving the matter in parenthesis the most liberal construction, it is only when there is an acquisition of substantially all the property of another corporation in connection with a merger or consolidation that a reorganization takes place. Clause (B) of the paragraph removes any doubt as to the intention of Congress on this point.'
The paragraph in question directs: 'The term 'reorganization' means ( A) a merger or consolidation (including the acquisition by one corporation of at least a majority of the voting stock and at least a majority of the total number of shares of all other classes of stock of another corporation, or substantially all the properties of another corporation).' The words within the parenthesis may [287 U.S. 462, 470] not be disregarded. They expand the meaning of 'merger' or 'consolidation' so as to include some things which partake of the nature of a merger or consolidation but are beyond the ordinary and commonly accepted meaning of those words-so as to embrace circumstances difficult to delimit but which in strictness cannot be designated as either merger or consolidation. But the mere purchase for money of the assets of one company by another is beyond the evident purpose of the provision, and has no real semblance to a merger or consolidation. Certainly, we think that to be within the exemption the seller must acquire an interest in the affairs of the purchasing company more definite than that incident to ownership of its short-term purchase-money notes. This general view is adopted and well sustained in Cortland Specialty Co. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue (C. C.A.) 60 F.(2d) 937, 939, 940. It harmonizes with the underlying purpose of the provisions in respect of exemptions and gives some effect to all the words employed.
The judgment of the court below is affirmed.
[ Footnote 1 ] 'Sec. 203. (a) Upon the sale or exchange of property the entire amount of the gain or loss, determined under section 933(202), ... shall be recognized, except as hereinafter provided in this section.