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United States v. Davis

United States Supreme Court
370 U.S. 65 (1962)


Thomas Davis (plaintiff) transferred certain appreciated shares of stock to his ex-wife pursuant to their divorce agreement. Davis had agreed to transfer the stock and other property in exchange for a release from his ex-wife of any claims that she might have based on her rights in their former marriage. Specifically, under the laws of Delaware, a common-law property state, Davis’s ex-wife was entitled to a share of his property in the event of his death or a divorce. The United States government (defendant) asserted that Davis’s transfer of stock to his ex-wife was a taxable event. Davis sought a redetermination in the United States Court of Claims. The court of claims held that, while the transfer may have been a taxable event, ascertaining the gain to Davis from his ex-wife’s release was not possible. Finding for Davis, the court of claims refused to ascribe a fair market value to his ex-wife’s inchoate rights in their former marriage. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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