CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT.
Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge
MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioner seeks to have the gain on sales of its real property treated as the gain of its sole stockholder and its corporate existence ignored as merely fictitious. Certiorari was granted because of the volume of similar litigation in the lower courts and because of alleged conflict
of the decision below with other circuit court decisions.*fn1
Petitioner was organized by Uly O. Thompson in 1928 to be used as a security device in connection with certain Florida realty owned by him. The mortgagee of the property suggested the arrangement, under which Mr. Thompson conveyed the property to petitioner, which assumed the outstanding mortgages on the property, receiving in return all but the qualifying shares of stock, which he in turn transferred to a voting trustee appointed by the creditor. The stock was to be held as security for an additional loan to Mr. Thompson to be used to pay back taxes on the property. Thompson owned other real property, title to which he held individually. In 1933 the loan which occasioned the creation of petitioner was repaid and the mortgages were refinanced with a different mortgagee; control of petitioner reverted to Mr. Thompson. The new mortgage debt was paid in 1936 by means of a sale of a portion of the property held by petitioner. The remaining holdings of the petitioner were sold in three parcels, one each in 1934, 1935 and 1936, the proceeds being received by Mr. Thompson and deposited in his bank account.
Until 1933 the business done by the corporation consisted of the assumption of a certain obligation of Thompson to the original creditor, the defense of certain condemnation proceedings and the institution of a suit to remove restrictions imposed on the property by a prior deed.
The expenses of this suit were paid by Thompson. In 1934 a portion of the property was leased for use as a parking lot for a rental of $1,000. Petitioner has transacted no business since the sale of its last holdings in 1936 but has not been dissolved. It kept no books and maintained no bank account during its existence and owned no other assets than as described. The sales made in 1934 and 1935 were reported in petitioner's income tax returns, a small loss being reported for the earlier year and a gain of over $5,000 being reported for 1935. Subsequently, on advice of his auditor, Thompson filed a claim for refund on petitioner's behalf for 1935 and sought to report the 1935 gain as his individual return. He reported the gain on the 1936 sale.
The question is whether the gain realized on the 1935 and 1936 sales shall be treated as income taxable to petitioner, as the Government urges, or as Thompson's income. The Board of Tax Appeals held for petitioner on the ground that because of its limited purpose, the corporation "was a mere figmentary agent which should be disregarded in the assessment of taxes." Moline Properties v. Commissioner, 45 B. T. A. 647. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that the corporate entity, chosen by Thompson for reasons sufficient to him, must now be recognized in the taxation of the income of the corporation. Commissioner v. Moline Properties, 131 F.2d 388.
The doctrine of corporate entity fills a useful purpose in business life. Whether the purpose be to gain an advantage under the law of the state of incorporation*fn2 or to avoid*fn3 or to ...