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UNITED STATES CARTRIDGE CO. v. UNITED STATES

decided: February 15, 1932.

UNITED STATES CARTRIDGE CO
v.
UNITED STATES



CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CLAIMS.

Hughes, Holmes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts

Author: Butler

[ 284 U.S. Page 513]

 MR. JUSTICE BUTLER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner sued to recover an alleged overpayment of income and profits taxes for 1918. The court made findings of fact, ruled in favor of petitioner as to a part of the amount and gave it judgment for $160,978.83, which is not here challenged. The court dismissed petitioner's complaint as to two other claims, which this writ brings up for consideration. One is on account of buildings erected by it for war purposes on leased land. The other involves the valuation of petitioner's inventories relating to government contracts. There is printed in the margin a statement showing the net income and taxes as determined by the Commissioner, the reduction made by the judgment, and the deductions claimed by petitioner and denied by the court.*fn1

The substance of the findings as to the buildings may be stated as follows:

Petitioner, for some years before the war, had been a manufacturer of ammunition for small arms used in times

[ 284 U.S. Page 514]

     of peace. It carried on at Lowell, Massachusetts, principally in buildings rented from a power company. During the years 1911 to 1914, inclusive, its business was relatively small and not profitable. In 1914 it commenced making ammunition for use in the war, and for the purpose of continuing that business while the war should last, it constructed new buildings upon the power company's land at a cost of $802,499.49 pursuant to an agreement that it should have the right to use them rent free until December 31, 1924, and then hand them over to the power company. Until the armistice, at first for foreign governments and later for our own, it had orders, and used all the buildings up to their capacity, in the manufacture of war ammunition. There was no way of knowing when this demand would cease.

Petitioner did not expect to make military ammunition after conflict ended, and in fact received no orders after the armistice. It continued the commercial ammunition business but made no profit in any year from 1918 to the end of the lease. The buildings could not be rented. Those belonging to the power company had been incorporated into the new ones. The space so made was much greater than required for its commercial ammunition business. Petitioner, for the purpose of utilizing the excess, undertook the manufacture of some other things, but that business was small and resulted in loss each year. There was a garage, used during the war production but not needed afterwards. Petitioner attempted to operate the building as a public garage but, realizing no net return, rented it to others from October, 1923, until the end of the lease.

The Commissioner allowed deductions on account of the cost of the buildings for the years from 1914 to 1917, inclusive, amounting in all to $197,107.74, leaving as of the end of 1917, cost less depreciation, $605,391.75. In the settlement of its 1918 taxes petitioner claimed that, as

[ 284 U.S. Page 515]

     of the end of that year, the value of its right to use the new buildings during the remainder of the term was $190,969.86, and the Court of Claims found it not in excess of that amount. Petitioner claimed a deduction of the difference between the depreciated cost and such residual value. The Commissioner disallowed the claim on the ground that it had not abandoned the use of the buildings or permanently devoted them to a radically different use. He allowed $86,484.54, arrived at by distributing the cost of each building ratably over the period ending with the term of the lease. The difference between the deduction claimed and that allowed is $327,937.35. In its tax returns for the remaining years of the lease, petitioner claimed deductions on account of the buildings amounting in all to $190,969.86, but the Commissioner added to such deductions $327,937.35.

The Revenue Act of 1918, 40 Stat. 1077, controls and its pertinent provisions are printed ...


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