Commissioner v. Glenshaw Glass Co.

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Commissioner v. Glenshaw Glass Co.
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued February 28, 1955
Decided March 28, 1955
Full case name Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Glenshaw Glass Company
Citations 348 U.S. 426 (more)
75 S. Ct. 473; 99 L. Ed. 483; 1955 U.S. LEXIS 1508; 55-1 U.S. Tax Cas. (CCH) P9308; 47 A.F.T.R. (P-H) 162; 1955-1 C.B. 207
Prior history Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Holding
The Court held that Congress, in enacting the income taxation statutes, intended to tax all gain except that which was specifically exempted.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Warren, joined by Black, Reed, Franfurter, Burton, Clark, Minton
Dissent Douglas
Harlan took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Commissioner v. Glenshaw Glass Co., 348 U.S. 426 (1955),[1] was an important income tax case before the United States Supreme Court. The Court held as follows:

  • Congress, in enacting income taxation statutes that comprehend "gains or profits and income derived from any source whatever," intended to tax all gain except that which was specifically exempted.
    • Income is not limited to "the gain derived from capital, from labor, or from both combined."
    • Although the Court used this characterization in Eisner v. Macomber, it "was not meant to provide a touchstone to all future gross income questions."
    • Instead, income is realized whenever there are "instances of [1] undeniable accessions to wealth, [2] clearly realized, and [3] over which the taxpayers have complete dominion."
    • Under this definition, punitive damages qualify as "income" -- even though they are not derived from capital or from labor.

Facts[edit]

Two factually distinct cases were consolidated because they presented the same issue.

Opinion of the Court[edit]

The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Earl Warren, held that the award of treble damages was taxable income.

In the opinion, Warren pointed out that the language of section 22(a) (the predecessor of current section 61(a)) was employed by Congress in order utilize "the full measure of its taxing power," as provided for under the Sixteenth Amendment. Essentially, Congress, in enacting section 22(a), intended to tax all gains except those specifically exempted.

The Court then held that the amounts received by the taxpayers in this case were "instances of undeniable accessions to wealth, clearly realized, and over which the taxpayers have complete dominion."

This three-part "test" for determining income is broader than the earlier test employed by the Court in Eisner v. Macomber, and is to this day the preferred test for identifying gross income.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Dodge, Joseph M. (2002). "The Story of Glenshaw Glass: Towards a Modern Concept of Gross Income". In Caron, Paul L. (ed.). Tax stories: An in-depth look at ten leading federal income tax cases. New York: Foundation Press. pp. 15–52. ISBN 1-58778-403-3. 
  • Donaldson, Samuel A. (2005). Federal Income Taxation of Individuals: Cases, Problems & Materials. St. Paul, MN: Thomson/West. pp. 49–52. ISBN 0-314-14429-3. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ Text of Commissioner v. Glenshaw Glass Co., 348 U.S. 426 (1955) is available from:  Findlaw  Justia