SWANSON v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE(1935)
Mr. Arnold R. Baar, of Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.
The Attorney General and James W. Morris, Asst. Atty. Gen., for respondent. [296 U.S. 362, 363]
Mr. Chief Justice HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question presented is whether the income of the 'Lake View Land Association' for the years 1925 and 1926 was subject to tax as the income of a trust under section 219 of the Revenue Act of 1926,1 or as the income of an 'association' by virtue of section 2(a)(2) of that act. 2 The Circuit Court of Appeals held the taxpayer to be an 'association' and affirmed the decision of the Board of Tax Appeals to that effect. 76 f.(2d) 651, 652. This Court granted a writ of certiorari. See Morrissey v. Commissioner, 296 U.S. 344 , 56 S.Ct. 289, decided this day.
The material facts as found by the Board of Tax Appeals are as follows: Joseph E. Swanson and Ralph C. Otis, in 1914, acquired a piece of vacant land in the city of Chicago with the view of improving it by the erection of an apartment house, the title being taken by Swanson. An apartment house was built. Subsequently, in 1915, at the suggestion of their attorney, they entered into a trust agreement for the purpose of carrying the title to the property. The trust was designated as the 'Lake View Land Association.' The first trustees were Ralph C. Otis, Joseph E. Swanson, and Allen G. Mills. Petitioners set forth the following summary of the trust agreement, taken from the opinion of the Circuit Court of Appeals:
The Court of Appeals also stated that 'the trustees of the Lake View Land Association never assembled in formal meetings, never adopted resolutions or took formal action with reference to the affairs of the property, kept no minute books, had no by-laws. They elected no officers and no so-called board of directors.'
The compensation of the trustees was to be fixed by themselves, but was not to exceed 2 1/2 per cent. of the gross income of the trust. After making provision for the payment of outstanding claims, the net income was to be divided among the beneficiaries according to their interests, and on the request of any beneficiary the trustees [296 U.S. 362, 365] were to render annual accounts. The trust agreement also made provision for a written registry of beneficiaries, who could transfer their interests in a described manner, after having first offered them to the other beneficiaries.
The renting of apartments, the details of management, and the distribution of net income were committed to a firm (of which Joseph E. Swanson was a member) engaged in the business of buying and selling real estate and managing properties. That firm acted under the direction of Ralph C. Otis and Joseph E. Swanson and the 'entire affairs of the Lake View Land Association' were at all times in their hands.
Applying the governing principles, as set forth in our opinion in Morrissey v. Commissioner, supra, we agree with the Court of Appeals that the trust constituted an association and was taxable as such. The limited number of actual beneficiaries did not alter the nature and purpose of the common undertaking. Nor did the fact that the operations of the association did not extend beyond the real property first acquired change the quality of that undertaking.
The judgment is affirmed.
[ Footnote 1 ] 44 Stat. 32, 26 U.S.C.A. 161-167 and notes.
[ Footnote 2 ] 44 Stat. 9, 26 U.S.C.A. 1696(3).
[ Footnote 3 ] Petitioners submit that this provision of the agreement should, under the law of Illinois, be taken to imply that the trustees could sue and be sued as individuals, and not 'the trust as an entity.'