CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CLAIMS.
MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Certiorari was granted to the Court of Claims to review a judgment in favor of the United States in an action to recover an alleged overpayment of excess profits tax for the calendar year 1919. The petitioner, a corporation, kept its books and made its returns of income and excess profits taxes on the accrual basis. In its return for the year ended December 31, 1919, it did not deduct from invested capital any amount on account of income and excess profits taxes for 1918 assessed and paid in 1919.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue determined that the invested capital for 1919 should be reduced by the amount of income and profits taxes for 1918, as of the dates in 1919 when the instalments of taxes fell due and were paid. To accomplish this he computed an average deduction for the year 1919, and diminished the earned surplus as of January 1, 1919, by subtracting from it the amount so ascertained.
The Commissioner's action was in accordance with Article 845 of Treasury Regulations 45, promulgated April 17, 1919, applicable to the Revenue Act of 1918. The pertinent portion follows:
"federal income . . . taxes are deemed to have been paid out of the net income of the taxable year for which they are levied."
Section 326 (a) of the Revenue Act of 1918 provided that "as used in this title the term 'invested capital' for any year means . . . :
(1) Actual cash bona fide paid in for stock or shares;
(2) Actual cash value of tangible property, other than cash, bona fide paid in for stock or shares, . . . ;
(3) Paid-in or earned surplus and undivided profits; not including surplus and undivided profits earned during the year;"
Petitioner asserts that Article 845 was based on the erroneous assumption that income taxes are payable out of the net income of the taxable year for which they are levied.
The United States replies that it is, and since 1914 it has been, required that a taxpayer shall keep his books and make his returns on a basis which will reflect true income; that while the taxes for any year are not payable until the following year, good accounting practice requires an accrual of them as a liability of the current year's business; and that the regulation ...