Hassett v. Welch
303 U.S. 303 (1938)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hassett v. Welch, 303 U.S. 303 (1938)

Hassett v. Welch

No. 375

Argued February 1, 1938

Decided February 28, 1938*

303 U.S. 303

Syllabus

1. Sec. 302(c) of the Rev. Act of 1926, which required that there be included in a decedent's estate, for estate tax purposes, any property interest of which the decedent has "at any time" made a transfer in contemplation of or intended to take effect in possession or enjoyment at or after death, was amended by the Joint Resolution of March 3, 1931, to include "a transfer under which the transferor has retained for his life . . . the possession or enjoyment of, or the income from, the property." Section 803(a) of the Rev. Act of June 6, 1932, substantially reenacts this provision.

Held:

(1) That the added provision does not apply to transfers made before, by decedents who died after, the enactment of the Joint Resolution. P. 303 U. S. 307.

(2) This construction is confirmed (a) by the legislative history and administrative interpretation of the Joint Resolution; (b) by its reenactment in the light of that interpretation. P. 303 U. S. 309.

2. Section 302(h) of the Rev. Act of 1926 provided:

"Except as otherwise specifically provided therein subdivisions (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), and (g) of this section shall apply to the transfers, trusts, estates, interests, rights, powers, and relinquishment of powers, as severally enumerated and described therein, whether made, created, arising, existing, exercised, or relinquished before or after the enactment of this Act."

Subdivision (c) dealt with transfers in contemplation of, or intended to take effect in possession or enjoyment at or after, death. The Joint Resolution of 1931, supra, amended § 302(c) to include nontestamentary

Page 303 U. S. 304

transfers with reservation of life estate to transferor. Held that § 302(h) does not make the amendment apply retroactively to the kind of transfers thereby added. P. 303 U. S. 313.

3. An adoption by one section of a statute of the particular provisions of another section by specific and descriptive reference does not embrace other particulars added later by amendment to the section so referred to. P. 303 U. S. 314.

4. In the absence of clear expression to the contrary, a law is presumed to operate prospectively. Id.

5. If doubt exists as to the construction of a taxing statute, the doubt should be resolved in favor of the taxpayer. Id.

90 F.2d 833, 91 F.2d 1010, affirmed.

Certiorari, 302 U.S. 674, 677, to review two decisions of Circuit Courts of Appeals against estate tax assessments. In No. 375, the taxpayers appealed from a judgment of the District Court for the Collector, 15 F.Supp. 692. In No. 484, there was an appeal by the Commissioner from the adverse decision of the Board of Tax Appeals.

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