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LUCAS v. OX FIBRE BRUSH COMPANY

decided: April 14, 1930.

LUCAS, COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE
v.
OX FIBRE BRUSH COMPANY



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.

Holmes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone; Hughes took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Hughes

[ 281 U.S. Page 116]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Ox Fibre Brush Company appealed to the Board of Tax Appeals from the determination by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue of a deficiency in the income tax of the corporation for the year 1920. The Board of Tax Appeals sustained the ruling of the Commissioner (8 B. T. A. 422), and this decision was reversed by the Circuit Court of Appeals. 32 F.2d 42.

The question relates to extra compensation granted by the directors of the corporation in the year 1920 to the president and treasurer, of $24,000 each. In the income tax return for that year, the corporation deducted these items from the gross income and the Commissioner of

[ 281 U.S. Page 117]

     Internal Revenue disallowed the deduction. The Board of Tax Appeals held that, if the additional compensation was given for services performed in prior years, it was not deductible in the year 1920; and if, as the Board concluded, it was allowed for services rendered in 1920, it was in excess of reasonable compensation for that year and hence could not be deducted.

The Circuit Court of Appeals found that the conclusion of the Board of Tax Appeals that the additional compensation was allowed for services performed in the year 1920 was without evidence to support it; that the compensation was for past services. It was further decided that the amount of the additional payment was reasonable in the circumstances shown and was deductible in the return for 1920, the year in which it was allowed and paid.

From the facts as found by the Circuit Court of Appeals, it appears that the president of the corporation had been in office from 1906 and its treasurer from 1907. Both of these officers had devoted their entire time to the interests of the corporation. Each year they had personally guaranteed bank loans to the corporation of considerable amounts. In addition to their ordinary executive duties, the president and treasurer had charge of all large purchases, of all sales, and had directed the general policies of the corporation. Prior to their administration, the business of the corporation had been in a chaotic state and had been conducted at a loss, but under their management the gross sales had increased from about $374,000 in 1909 to $1,273,000 in 1920. The net results were changed from an operating loss of about $4,000 in 1908 to net earnings (after deduction of salaries, including the amounts here in question) of about $158,000 in 1920. No dividends were paid until 1910, but dividends were increased from $4,500 in 1911 and 1912 to $423,275 in

[ 281 U.S. Page 1181920]

     , represented by a fifty per cent. stock dividend of $300,000 and cash dividends aggregating $123,275, or 25.98 per cent. on the outstanding capitalization at the beginning of that year. The net income in 1920, after a deduction of all expenses, including officers' salaries, represented a return of 21.13 per cent. on invested capital of about $750,000, as determined by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. The corporation had advanced to a leading place in the brush trade. In 1919 and 1920, the president and treasurer had received salaries of $12,000 and $15,000, respectively. In 1918 their combined salaries were approximately $25,000. The record does not disclose what they received in 1915, 1916 and 1917, but in 1914 they together received $16,000; in 1913, $11,000; in the three preceding years, $10,000, and before that time they received $6,000.

On May 6, 1920, the board of directors unanimously voted to pay to each of these officers $24,000, the resolution in each case explicitly stating that it was paid "as extra compensation for his past services to this company as an officer thereof and in any other capacity."

The books of the corporation were kept on an accrual basis, and during May, 1920, proper entry was made crediting the accounts of the president and treasurer ...


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