COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE v. BANKS
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
No. 03-892.Argued November 1, 2004--Decided January 24, 2005**
Respondent Banks settled his federal employment discrimination suit against a California state agency and respondent Banaitis settled his Oregon state case against his former employer, but neither included fees paid to their attorneys under contingent-fee agreements as gross income on their federal income tax returns. In each case petitioner Commissioner of Internal Revenue issued a notice of deficiency, which the Tax Court upheld. In Banks' case, the Sixth Circuit reversed in part, finding that the amount Banks paid to his attorney was not includable as gross income. In Banaitis' case, the Ninth Circuit found that because Oregon law grants attorneys a superior lien in the contingent-fee portion of any recovery, that part of Banaitis' settlement was not includable as gross income.
Held: When a litigant's recovery constitutes income, the litigant's income includes the portion of the recovery paid to the attorney as a contingent fee. Pp. 5-12.