New Capital Hotel Inc. v. Commissioner
28 T.C. 706, aff'd 261 F.2d 437 (6th Cir. 1958)

  • New Capital was in the business of leasing property. In 1949 they accepted $30k from a renter as an advanced payment for rent that wasn't due until 1959.
    • New Capital actually rented the building to the renter for 10 years. Instead of making them pay a deposit, New Capital made them pay the tenth year's rent up front as sort of a deposit.
    • New Capital used the accrual method of accounting.
  • Whey New Capital filed their 1949 taxes, they did not include the $30k in their gross income. The IRS disagreed and assessed a deficiency.
    • New Capital argued that since they used the accrual method of accounting they did not have to include the $30k as income until 1959.
      • Under the accrual method of accounting, the taxpayer only counts income when all of the events that entitle the taxpayer to receive the income have occurred.
    • The IRS argued that the $30k needed to be included New Capitals' 1949 gross income.
      • IRS argued that the $30k was rent and rent is explicitly included in gross income.
  • The Tax Court found for the IRS. New Capital appealed.
    • The Tax Court found that in general, taxpayers that use the accrual method of accounting only count income when earned, as opposed to when it was received.
    • However, the Court looked to the tax code (then 26 U.S.C. 41, now 26 U.S.C. 446(b)), and found that there is an exception that allows the IRS to change the accounting method to better reflect actual income.
      • 446(b) says, "if the method used does not clearly reflect income, the computation of taxable income shall be made under such method as, in the opinion of the Secretary, does clearly reflect income."
    • The Court found that in this case, the IRS was within their rights to tax the $30k in 1949 as opposed to 1959.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
  • Basically, it would have been unfair to allow New Capital to get their $30k in 1949 and not have to pay taxes on it until 1959. 446(b) allows the IRS to stop people from manipulating the system like New Capital was attempting to do.