U.S. Supreme Court
Crooks v. Harrelson, 282 U.S. 55 (1930)
Crooks v. Harrelson
Argued October 31, 1930
Decided November 24, 1930
282 U.S. 55
1. Section 402 of the Revenue Act of 1918 provides that the value of the gross estate of a decedent shall be determined by including the value at the time of his death of all property
"(a) To the extent of the interest therein of the decedent at the time of his death which after his death is subject to the payment of the charges against his estate and the expenses of its administration and is subject to distribution as part of his estate."
Held that the requirements that a property interest, to be included, shall be subject to the payment of the charges against the estate and the expenses of administration must be taken, as they are expressed, in the conjunctive, that charges against the estate and expenses of administration are different and distinct things, and that when, by the state law, an interest in real estate, though subject to the former, is not subject to the latter, it forms no part of the gross estate for the purpose of the federal estate tax. United States v. Field, 255 U. S. 257. P. 282 U. S. 58.
2. To justify departure from the letter of an Act of Congress as leading to absurd results, the absurdity must be so gross as to shock the general moral or common sense; there must be something to make plain the intent of Congress that the letter shall chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
not prevail; it is not enough merely that hard and objectionable or absurd consequences, which probably were not in the contemplation of the framers, are produced by the act of legislation. P. 282 U. S. 59.
3. Unless the Constitution be violated, Congress may select the subject of taxation and qualify them differently as it sees fit, and if it does so in plain terms, it is not within the province of the Court to modify the law by construction. P. 282 U. S. 61.
4. The general rule requiring adherence to the letter applies with peculiar strictness to a taxing act. Id.
5. In Missouri, the real estate of a decedent cannot be sold to pay expenses of administration, nor can its proceeds, when sold to pay debts and legacies for which the personal estate is insufficient, be used to pay expenses of administration. Id.
35 F.2d 416 affirmed.
Certiorari, 281 U.S. 706, to a judgment of the circuit court of appeals affirming a judgment, 28 F.2d 510, recovered by the present respondents in an action against the Collector for money exacted as a part of an estate tax.