Commissioner v. Bilder
369 U.S. 499 (1962)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Commissioner v. Bilder, 369 U.S. 499 (1962)

Commissioner v. Bilder

No. 384

Argued March 29, 1962

Decided April 30, 1962

369 U.S. 499

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Under § 213 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, a taxpayer who has been ordered by his physician to spend the winter months in Florida, as part of a regimen of medical treatments, may not deduct as an expense for "medical care" the rent paid for an apartment in Florida. Pp. 369 U. S. 499-505.

289 F.2d 291 reversed.

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case concerns the deductibility as an expense for "medical care," under § 213 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, 26 U.S.C. § 213, of rent paid by a taxpayer for an apartment in Florida, where he was ordered by his physician, as part of a regimen of medical treatment to spend the winter months. [Footnote 1]

Page 369 U. S. 500

The taxpayer, now deceased, was an attorney practicing law in Newark, New Jersey. In December, 1953, when he was 43 years of age and had suffered four heart attacks during the previous eight years, he was advised by a heart specialist to spend the winter season in a warm climate. The taxpayer, his wife and his three-year-old daughter proceeded immediately to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they resided for the ensuing three months in an apartment rented for $1,500. Two months of the succeeding winter were also spent in Fort Lauderdale in an apartment rented for $829.

The taxpayer claimed the two rental payments as deductible medical expenses in his 1954 and 1955 income tax returns. These deductions were disallowed in their entirety by the Commissioner. [Footnote 2] The Tax Court reversed the Commissioner's determination to the extent of one-third of the deductions, finding that proportion of the total claimed attributable to the taxpayer's own living accommodations. The remaining two-thirds it attributed to the accommodations of his wife and child, whose presence, the Tax Court concluded, had not been shown to be necessary to the medical treatment of the taxpayer's illness. 33 T.C. 155.

On cross-appeals from the decision of the Tax Court, the Court of Appeals held, by a divided vote, that the full

Page 369 U. S. 501

rental payments were deductible as expenses for "medical care" within the meaning of § 213. 289 F.2d 291. Because of a subsequent contrary holding by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Carasso v. Commissioner, 292 F.2d 367, and the need for a uniform rule on the point, we granted certiorari to resolve the conflict. 368 U.S. 912.

The Commissioner concedes that, prior to the enactment of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, rental payments of the sort made by the taxpayer were recognized as deductible medical expenses. This was because § 23(x) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1939, though expressly authorizing deductions only for "amounts paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease," [Footnote 3] had been construed to include "travel primarily for and essential to . . . the prevention or alleviation of a physical or mental defect or illness," Treasury Regulations 111, § 29.23(x)-1, and the cost of meals and lodging during such travel, I.T. 3786, 1946-1 Cum.Bull. 76. See, e.g., Stringham v. Commissioner, 12 T.C. 580, aff'd, 183 F.2d 579; Rev.Rule 55-261, 1955-1 Cum.Bull. 307.

The Commissioner maintains, however, that it was the purpose of Congress, in enacting § 213(e)(1)(A) of the 1954 Code, albeit in language identical to that used in § 23(x) of the 1939 Code (compare notes 1 and | 1 and S. 499fn3|>3, supra),

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