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PEURIFOY ET AL. v. COMMISSIONER INTERNAL REVENUE

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


decided: November 10, 1958.

PEURIFOY ET AL
v.
COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE

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

Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Whittaker, Stewart

Author: Per Curiam

[ 358 U.S. Page 59]

 The petitioners were employed as construction workers at a site in Kinston, North Carolina, for continuous periods of 20 1/2 months, 12 1/2 months, and 8 1/2 months, respectively, ending in the year 1953. Each of the petitioners maintained a permanent residence elsewhere in North Carolina. In reporting his adjusted gross income for 1953 each petitioner deducted amounts expended for board and lodging at Kinston during the period of employment there, and for transportation from Kinston to his permanent residence upon leaving that employment. These deductions were disallowed by the respondent. Ensuing Tax Court proceedings resulted in a decision in favor of the petitioners. 27 T. C. 149. The Court of Appeals reversed. 254 F.2d 483. We granted certiorari, 356 U.S. 956, to consider certain questions as

[ 358 U.S. Page 60]

     to the application of § 23 (a)(1)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1939*fn* raised by the course of decisions in the lower courts since our decision in Commissioner v. Flowers, 326 U.S. 465. However, as the case has been presented to us we have found it inappropriate to consider such questions.

The issue is whether the amounts in question constituted allowable deductions under § 23 (a)(1)(A). Generally, a taxpayer is entitled to deduct unreimbursed travel expenses under this subsection only when they are required by "the exigencies of business." Commissioner v. Flowers, supra. Application of this general rule would require affirmance of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in the present case.

To this rule, however, the Tax Court has engrafted an exception which allows a deduction for expenditures of the type made in this case when the taxpayer's employment is "temporary" as contrasted with "indefinite" or "indeterminate." Compare Schurer v. Commissioner, 3 T. C. 544; Leach v. Commissioner, 12 T. C. 20; Albert v. Commissioner, 13 T. C. 129, with Warren v. Commissioner, 13 T. C. 205; Whitaker v. Commissioner, 24 T. C. 750. The respondent does not in the present case challenge the validity of this exception to the general rule.

Resolution of this case as presented to us turns, therefore, upon a narrow question of fact -- Was the petitioners'

[ 358 U.S. Page 61]

     employment "temporary" or "indefinite"? The Tax Court, stating that "each case must be decided upon the basis of its own facts and circumstances," 27 T. C., at 157, found that their employment was temporary. The Court of Appeals, also recognizing that the question was "one of fact," held that on the record the Tax Court's finding of temporary employment was "clearly erroneous." 254 F.2d, at 487.

In reviewing the Tax Court's factual determination, the Court of Appeals has made a fair assessment of the record. 26 U. S. C. (Supp. V) § 7482; Rule 52 (a), Fed. Rules Civ. Proc.; cf. Universal Camera Corp. v. Labor Board, 340 U.S. 474. That being so, this Court will not intervene. Federal Trade Commission v. Standard Oil Co., 355 U.S. 396, 400-401; Labor Board v. Pittsburgh S.S. Co., 340 U.S. 498, 502-503.

Affirmed.

Disposition

254 F.2d 483, affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE BLACK and MR. JUSTICE WHITTAKER concur, dissenting.

As Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Flowers*fn1 indicated, the prerequisites to a deduction for travel expenses under § 23 (a)(1)(A)*fn2 are threefold: The expenses must be reasonable and necessary,*fn3 they must be incurred while "away from home," and there must be a "direct connection between the expenditure and the carrying on of the trade or business of the taxpayer or of his employer." (Emphasis supplied.) 326 U.S., at 470. I think the taxpayers in this case have met those conditions and should be allowed the claimed deductions.

[ 358 U.S. Page 62]

     The meaning of "home" was expressly left undecided in Flowers but is squarely presented in the instant case.*fn4 I disagree with the Commissioner's contention that "home" is synonymous with the situs of the employer's business. Such a construction means that the taxpayer who is forced to travel from place to place to pursue his trade must carry his home on his back regardless of the fact that he maintains his family at an abode which meets all accepted definitions of "home." I do not believe that Congress intended such a harsh result when it provided a deduction for traveling expenses. These construction workers do not have a permanent locus of employment as does the merchant or factory worker. They are required to travel from job to job in order to practice their trade. It would be an intolerable burden for them to uproot their families whenever they change jobs, if those jobs happen to take them to a different locality. When they do not undertake this burden they are living "away from home"*fn5 for the duration of the term of the jobs.*fn6

[ 358 U.S. Page 63]

     We have, then, not a question of fact which should be resolved below rather than here. We have a mixed question of law and fact. The facts will turn largely on the resolution of the question of law. The error below was mainly in assuming (albeit silently) a narrow construction of the statutory term "home."


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