Alimony paid monthly to a divorced wife under a decree of court
is not taxable as "income" under the Income Tax Act of October 3,
1913, 38 Stat. 114, 166.
In the interpretation of taxing statutes it is the established
rule not to extend their provisions, by implication, beyond the
clear import of the language used, or to enlarge their operations
so as to embrace matters not specifically pointed out. Doubts are
resolved against the government.
168 App.Div. 900 affirmed.
The case is stated in the opinion.
Page 245 U. S. 152
MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.
A decree of the Supreme Court for New York County entered in
1909 forever separated the parties to this proceeding, then and now
citizens of the United States, from bed and board, and further
ordered that plaintiff in error pay to Katherine C. Gould during
her life the sum of $3,000 every month for her support and
maintenance. The question presented is whether such monthly
payments during the years 1913 and 1914 constituted parts of Mrs.
Gould's income within the intendment of the act of Congress
approved October 3, 1913, 38 Stat. 114, 166, and were subject as
such to the tax prescribed therein. The court below answered in the
negative, and we think it reached the proper conclusion.
Pertinent portions of the act follow:
"SECTION II. A. Subdivision 1. That there shall be levied,
assessed, collected, and paid annually upon the entire net income
arising or accruing from all sources in the preceding calendar year
to every citizen of the United States, whether residing at home or
abroad, and to every person residing in the United States, though
not a citizen thereof, a tax of 1 percentum per annum upon such
income, except as hereinafter provided. . . ."
"B. That, subject only to such exemptions and deductions as are
hereinafter allowed, the net income of a taxable person shall
include gains, profits, and income derived from salaries, wages, or
compensation for personal service of whatever kind and in whatever
form paid, or from professions, vocations, business, trade,
Page 245 U. S. 153
or sales, or dealings in property, whether real or personal,
growing out of the ownership or use of or interest in real or
personal property, also from interest, rent, dividends, securities,
or the transaction of any lawful business carried on for gain or
profit, or gains or profits and income derived from any source
whatever, including the income from, but not the value of, property
acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent. . . ."
In the interpretation of statutes levying taxes, it is the
established rule not to extend their provisions by implication
beyond the clear import of the language used, or to enlarge their
operations so as to embrace matters not specifically pointed out.
In case of doubt, they are construed most strongly against the
government and in favor of the citizen. United States v.
2 Story 369, Fed.Cas. No. 16,690; American
Net & Twine Co. v. Worthington, 141 U.
, 141 U. S. 474
Benziger v. United States, 192 U. S.
, 192 U. S. 55
As appears from the above quotations, the net income upon which
subdivision 1 directs that an annual tax shall be assessed, levied,
collected, and paid is defined in division B. The use of the word
itself in the definition of "income" causes some obscurity, but we
are unable to assert that alimony paid to a divorced wife under a
decree of court falls fairly within any of the terms employed.
In Audubon v. Shufeldt, 181 U.
, 181 U. S.
-578, we said:
"Alimony does not arise from any business transaction, but from
the relation of marriage. It is not founded on a contract, express
or implied, but on the natural and legal duty of the husband to
support the wife. The general obligation to support is made
specific by the decree of the court of appropriate jurisdiction. .
. . Permanent alimony is regarded rather as a portion of the
husband's estate to which the wife is equitably entitled than as
strictly a debt; alimony from time to time may be regarded as a
portion of his current income or earnings. . . . "
Page 245 U. S. 154
The net income of the divorced husband subject to taxation was
not decreased by payment of alimony under the court's order, and,
on the other hand, the sum received by the wife on account thereof
cannot be regarded as income arising or accruing to her within the
The judgment of the court below is