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Bauer v. Commissioner
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
748 F.2d 1365 (1984)
Philip Bauer and Phillip Himmelfarb (plaintiffs) were the officers and shareholders of the Federal Meat Company (Federal). Federal was a successful company that leased its plant and equipment used to custom slaughter meat for retailers and wholesalers. Bauer owned 25 percent of Federal’s stock, and Himmelfarb owned 75 percent. Bauer and Himmelfarb made several cash advances to Federal. In exchange for the advances, Federal issued negotiable promissory notes with no fixed dates of repayment that carried 7 to 10 percent interest rates. On its income-tax returns, Federal claimed interest-expense deductions on the interest it paid Bauer and Himmelfarb. Bauer and Himmelfarb included the interest payments, but not the principal repayments, as income on their income-tax returns. The United States Tax Court determined the advances were not loans, as Bauer and Himmelfarb argued, but capital contributions. The tax court looked at Federal’s debt-to-equity ratio and found Federal was undercapitalized, a sign that the advances were capital contributions. In calculating the debt-to-income ratio, the tax court compared the debt Castlewood owed Bauer and Himmelfarb, over $1,850,000, with their initial stock purchase of $20,000. The tax court also found that Himmelfarb and Bauer had advanced money to Federal in proportion with their respective ownership interests, a 3 to 1 ratio. However, the tax court ignored the timing of these advances and the effect of Federal’s repayment to the shareholders; by 1976, the debt Federal owed Himmelfarb and Bauer had a ratio of 11 to 1 rather than 3 to 1. Because these findings suggested that the advances were capital contributions, the court disallowed the interest deductions and reclassified the principal repayments as taxable dividends. Bauer and Himmelfarb appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Hug, J.)
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