United States v. Basye
410 U.S. 441 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Basye, 410 U.S. 441 (1973)

United States v. Basye

No. 71-1022

Argued December 11, 1972

Decided February 27, 1973

410 U.S. 441


A medical partnership (Permanente), in which respondent physicians were partners, made an agreement to supply medical services to members of a health foundation (Kaiser). A portion of Kaiser's compensation to Permanente was in the form of payments into a retirement trust for the benefit of Permanente's physicians, none of whom was eligible to receive the amounts in his tentative account prior to retirement after specified years of service. No interest in the account was deemed to vest in a particular beneficiary before retirement, and a physician's pre-retirement severance from Permanente would occasion the forfeiture of his interest, with redistribution to the remaining participants. Under no circumstances, however, could Kaiser recoup the payments once made. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue assessed a deficiency against each partner respondent for his distributive share of the amount paid by Kaiser, which he had not reported as taxable income. In this refund suit the District Court, with the Court of Appeals affirming, held that the payments to the fund were not income to the partnership because it did not receive and had no "right to receive" them.

Held: The retirement fund payments, notwithstanding the fact that they were contributed directly to the trust, were compensation for services that Permanente rendered under the medical service agreement, and should have been reported as income to Permanente; and the individual partners should have included their shares of that income in their individual returns, since the existence of conditions upon the actual receipt by a partner of income fully earned by the partnership is not a relevant factor in determining its taxability to him. Pp. 410 U. S. 448-457.

450 F.2d 109, reversed and remanded.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., dissented.

Page 410 U. S. 442

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