Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Indianapolis Power & Light Trips Circuits

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Indianapolis Power & Light Trips Circuits

Article excerpt

In a split decision, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals required a grocer to include in gross income a payment characterized as a loan from a supplier. The loan could be forgiven if the grocer, Karns Prime and Fancy Foods Ltd. of Harrisburg, Pa., purchased a certain volume of goods. But because Karns had no unconditional obligation to repay the proceeds when it executed the purchase agreement, the loan was more in the nature of an advance rebate, the majority opinion said.

The court thus reached an opposite conclusion from the Ninth Circuit earlier in Westpac Pacific Foods v. Commissioner, a ruling the IRS agreed to follow this summer (see "Tax Matters," JofA, Dec. 06, page 80, and Sept. 07, page 86). That case involved payments explicitly designated as advance rebates to grocers from a supplier. Both courts based their decisions on a 17-year-old Supreme Court ruling that customer security deposits held by an electric utility were not income.

To raise capital, Karns asked its principal supplier, Super Rite Foods Inc., for a loan. In 1999, in exchange for $1.5 million from Super Rite, Karns executed a promissory note and supply agreement, learns could either repay the loan in six annual installments of $250,000 each or purchase at least $16 million worth of product each year to have that years installment forgiven. For the first three years of the agreement, Karns exceeded the minimum purchase amounts, and those years' payments were forgiven. The company included $250,000 as income on its returns for tax years 2001 and 2002.

In 2003, however, the IRS issued a deficiency notice of $486,355 for tax year 2000, claiming that since Karns had no unconditional obligation to repay the $1.5 million, the entire amount was income when received. Karns petitioned the Tax Court, lost and appealed.

The Third Circuit contrasted Karns' loan from customers' security deposits on electric service that were the subject of the Supreme Court's 1990 ruling in Commissioner v. …

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