United States v. Kirby Lumber Co.
In this case, the plaintiff, the Kirby Lumber Company issued bonds in July of 1923, for USD 12,126,800.00. This said in the same year the firm Kirby Lumber Co. decided to purchase back some of its own issued bonds. However, the buy-back was for a lower amount than the actual original face value. In other words, it was less than the par value that the company collected at the time of issuing them. Consequently, Kirby Lumber Company achieved savings in the amount of roughly USD 137,521.30 by doing so. Therefore, the court made the argument that this amount should be reported as taxable income.
The question in this case is whether or not, the difference realized of USD 137,521.30 as part of purchasing back the bonds in the open market is considered taxable and classified either as a “gain” or “income,” while it should be reported as such in the year of 1923, by the Kirby Lumber Company. This said the case was taken up by Mr. Justice Holmes, who ruled on this case on behalf of the court accordingly.
Mr. Justice Holmes applied the Revenue Act of 1921, c. 136, §213(a), which clearly states that gross income includes any amounts related to profit/gains stemming from any source no matter what. Hence, he considered the USD 137,521.30 as taxable income.
Additionally, the Treasury Regulation further substantiated Justice Holmes’ stand, since Section 1303 stipulates that the difference of the excess of the issuing face value amount (issuing price) over the price, a firm is paying to buy back some of its initially issued bonds, is considered a taxable income or gain in the respective year. Therefore, it was clear that Kirby Lumber Co., realized a gain/income, as part of its bond transactions that were taxable. In fact, in this case Kirby’s Lumber Co. assets did not shrink, but rather produced a clear gain. Consequently, this gain was taxable, because in the year of 1923 the firm realized a gain stemming from first issuing and then re-purchasing some of its own bonds in the market, which resulted in a profit of USD 137,521.30.
Applying the Revenue Act of 1921, c. 136, Section 213(a), Justice Holmes found no reason why the gain realized by Kirby Lumber Co., as part of issuing and repurchasing its bonds in the open market is not considered a profit/gain realized from any source. At the same time, the Treasury Regulation Section 1303 further solidifies the ruling that the amount of USD 137,521.30 is taxable income. In fact, since the gain represents the difference of the excess of the issuing face value amount over the actual re-purchasing price of the bonds by Kirby Lumber Co., it is classified as taxable income and taxes are owed by the company accordingly. In other words, Justice Holmes did not see any valid arguments, of why Kirby Lumber Co. should not pay taxes on the amount of USD 137,521.30.