Estate of Leavitt v. Comm
As shareholders of VAFLA Corporation, an S corporation, the appellants claimed deductions to reflect the corporation’s operating losses. The commissioner disallowed deductions above the $10,000 bases from original investment. The appellants contend that the adjusted basis in their stock should be increased to reflect a $300,000 loan. The loan was obtained by VAFLA from bank and was guaranteed by the shareholder-guarantors. VAFLA made all of the loan payments, principals and interest to the bank and the appellants did not. Neither VAFLA nor the shareholder-guarantors treated the loan as constructive income taxable to the shareholder-guarantors.
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The appellants argue that the loan is a capital contribution (equity). However, they fail to distinguish between the initial question of economic outlay and the secondary issue of debt or equity. Only if the first question had an affirmative answer would the second arise. The tax court correctly determined that the appellant’s guarantees in itself have not constituted contributions of cash or other property which might increase the bases of the appellant’s stock.
The appellants view the “substance” of the transaction is over the “form”. Generally, taxpayers are bound by the form of their transaction and may not argue the substance triggers different tax consequences. The Tax Court found the form and substance of the transaction was a loan from the bank to VAFLA and not to the appellants. The proceeds were to be used in the operation of the business and petitioners were not free to dispose the loan. Nor were the payments reported as constructive dividends.
If VAFLA had been profitable, the petitioners would argue that the loan was from the bank to the corporation. The loan repayments would not be on the appellants’ behalf and would not be taxed as constructive income to them. The appellants would jump an effort to play both ends against the middle until it should be determined whether VAFLA was profitable or money-losing.
The appellants complain that the tax court...