HELVERING v. EUBANK(1940)
Rehearing Denied Feb. 3, 1941
See 312 U.S. 713 , 61 S.Ct. 609, 85 L.Ed. --.
Messrs. Robert H. Jackson, Atty. Gen., and Arnold Raum, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.
Mr. Harry J. Rudick, of New York City, for respondent.[ Helvering v. Eubank 311 U.S. 122 (1940) ]
Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a companion case to Helvering v. Horst, 311 U.S. 112 , 61 S.Ct. 144, decided this day, and presents issues not distinguishable from those in that case.
Respondent, a general life insurance agent, after the termination of his agency contracts and services as agent, made assignments in 1924 and 1928 respectively of renewal commissions to become payable to him for services which had been rendered in writing policies of insurance under two of his agency contracts. The Commissioner assessed the renewal commissions paid by the companies to the assignees in 1933 as income taxable to the assignor in that year under the provisions of the 1932 Revenue Act, 47 Stat. 169, 22, 26 U.S.C.A. Int.Rev.Acts, page 487, of which does not differ in any respect now material from 22 of the 1934 Revenue Act, 26 U.S.C.A. Int.Rev.Acts, page 669, involved in the Horst case. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the order of the Board of Tax Appeals sustaining the assessment. 110 F.2d 737; 39 B.T.A. 583. We granted certiorari October 14, 1940. 311 U.S. 630 , 61 S.Ct. 27, 85 L.Ed. --.
No purpose of the assignments appears other than to confer on the assignees the power to collect the commis- [311 U.S. 122, 125] sions, which they did in the taxable year. The Government and respondent have briefed and argued the case here on the assumption that the assignments were voluntary transfers to the assignees of the right to collect the commissions as and when they became payable, and the record affords no basis for any other.
For the reasons stated at length in the opinion in the Horst case, we hold that the commissions were taxable as income of the assignor in the year when paid. The judgment below is
The separate opinion of Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS.
The cause was decided upon stipulated facts. The following statement taken from the court's opinion discloses the issues:
The court below declared: 'In the case at bar the petitioner owner a right to receive money for past services; no further services were required. Such a right is assignable. At the time of assignment there was nothing contingent in the petitioner's right, although the amount collectible in future years was still uncertain and contingent. But this may be equally true where the assignment transfers a right to income from investments, as in Blair v. Commissioner, 300 U.S. 5 , 57 S.Ct. 330, and Horst v. Commissioner, 2 Cir., 107 F.2d 906, or a right to patent royalties, as in Nelson v. Ferguson, 3 Cir., 56 F.2d 121, certiorari denied 286 U.S. 565 , 52 S.Ct. 646. By an assignment of future earnings a taxpayer may not escape taxation upon his compensation in the year when he earns it. But when a taxpayer who makes his income tax return on a cash basis assigns a right to money payable in the future for work already performed, we believe that he transfers a property right, and the money, when received by the assignee, is not income taxable to the assignor.'
Accordingly, the Board of Tax Appeals was reversed; and this, I think, is in accord with the statute and our opinions. [311 U.S. 122, 127] The assignment in question denuded the assignor of all right to commissions thereafter to accrue under the contract with the insurance company. He could do nothing further in respect of them; they were entirely beyond his control. In no proper sense were they something either earned or received by him during the taxable year. The right to collect became the absolute property of the assignee without relation to future action by the assignor.
A mere right to collect future payments, for services already performed is not presently taxable as 'income derived' from such services. It is property which may be assigned. Whatever the assignor receives as consideration may be his income; but the statute does not undertake to impose liability upon him because of payments to another under a contract which he had transferred in good faith, under circumstances like those here disclosed.
As in Helvering v. Horst just decided, the petitioner relies upon opinions here; but obviously they arose upon facts essentially different from those now presented. They do not support his contention. The general principles approved in Blair v. Commissioner, 300 U.S. 5 , 57 S.Ct. 330, and applied in Helvering v. Horst, are controlling and call for affirmation of the judgment under review.
The CHIEF JUSTICE and Mr. Justice ROBERTS concur in this opinion.