Gregory v. Helvering
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''Gregory v. Helvering'', 293 U.S. 465 (1935), was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court concerned with U.S. income tax law. The case is cited as part of the basis for two legal doctrines: the business purpose doctrine and the doctrine of substance over form. The business purpose doctrine is essentially that where a transaction has no substantial business purpose other than the avoidance or reduction of Federal tax, the tax law will not regard the transaction. The doctrine of substance over form is essentially that, for Federal tax purposes, a taxpayer is bound by the economic substance of a transaction where the economic substance varies from its legal form.
Evelyn Gregory was the owner of all the shares of a company called United Mortgage Company (“United”). United Mortgage in turn owned 1,000 shares of stock of a company called Monitor Securities Corporation (“Monitor”). On 18 September 1928 she created Averill Corp and three days after transferred the 1000 shares in Monitor to Averill. On 24 September she dissolved Averill and distributed the 1000 shares in Monitor to herself, and on the same day sold the shares for $133,333.33. She claimed there was a cost of $57,325.45, and she should be taxed on a capital net gain on $76,007.88. On her 1928 federal income tax return, Gregory treated the transaction as a tax free corporate reorganization, under the Revenue Act of 1928 section 112. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Guy Helvering, argued in economic substance there was no business reorganization, that Gregory owned all three corporations and was simply following a legal form to make it appear like a reorganization so she could dispose of the Monitor shares without paying substantial income tax. Accordingly, she understated her liability by $10,000.
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