YOAKUM v. COMMISSIONER Docket No. 2045-80.
82 T.C. 128 (1984)
JACK R. YOAKUM, PETITIONER v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, RESPONDENT
United States Tax Court.
Filed January 23, 1984.
Patrick E. McGinnis, for the respondent.
Respondent determined a deficiency of $978.23 in petitioner's Federal income tax for taxable year 1977. The issue for our decision is whether petitioner is entitled to a deduction under section 215
FINDINGS OF FACT
Some of the facts have been stipulated and are so found. The stipulation of facts and exhibits attached thereto are incorporated herein by this reference.
Petitioner Jack R. Yoakum was a resident of Locust Grove, Okla., at the time he filed the petition in this case. He timely filed a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (Form 1040) for taxable year 1977.
Petitioner was married to Glenda R. Yoakum on March 25, 1958, in Tulsa, Okla. The marriage lasted over 18 years, during which time two children were born and various properties were acquired.
On January 6, 1977, Jack R. Yoakum, as plaintiff, filed a petition with the local District Court of Mayes County, Okla., requesting a decree of absolute divorce from Glenda R. Yoakum on the ground of incompatibility. Petitioner further requested that he be granted custody of the couple's two minor children and that the properties of the parties be equitably divided by the court.
After granting petitioner the divorce and custody of the two minor children, subject to reasonable visitation rights on Glenda R. Yoakum's part, the divorce decree went on to provide, in part, that:
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the defendant, Glenda R. Yoakum, receive, and she is hereby awarded as her full and equitable share of the properties belonging to the parties the 1975 Chrysler Newport automobile now in her possession together with such unexpired insurance as remains thereon, the same tagged for 1977, at the expense of Jack R. Yoakum, plaintiff, and that she be paid by the plaintiff the sum of $2,000 in cash within five days after the entry of the Divorce Decree herein.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that by way of alimony, and in lieu of any other settlement, the defendant be, and she is hereby, awarded the sum of $3,000, payable at the rate of $250 per month, the first installment to be paid by the plaintiff within 30 days after the entry of the Divorce Decree herein, and that upon full payment thereof, said defendant shall execute in favor of the plaintiff a release thereof, the final installment not to be paid until the execution and delivery of such release to be obtained and provided by the plaintiff.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the parties have equitably divided the household goods located in the residence of plaintiff and the minor children together with an additional list, in writing, of household goods therein located which shall be made available to the defendant at anytime within one year from the entry of this Divorce Decree.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that each of the parties be awarded their personal clothing and effects and that the plaintiff be, and he is hereby, awarded all the property, both real and personal, belonging to the parties not herein specified or contained in the written list signed by both the parties of the household goods and that the defendant be, and she is hereby, directed to execute to the plaintiff a quit claim deed thereon within ten days from the date hereof, in default of which, the recording of a certified copy hereof shall constitute such transfer, said real property being situate in Mayes County, Oklahoma, and described as follows, to-wit:
Under the divorce decree, petitioner received fee simple title to that real property.
Glenda R. Yoakum was not represented by an attorney in the divorce proceeding brought by her husband, nor did she appear at the hearing on February 7, 1977, at which time the divorce decree was entered. Subsequent to the entry of the divorce decree, Glenda R. Yoakum did obtain legal counsel, and on September 26, 1977, filed an application to vacate divorce decree and for entry of a new divorce decree. After first alleging that Glenda R. Yoakum was legally incompetent due to mental illness at the time the original divorce decree was entered, the application for entry of a new divorce decree further alleged, in part, that:
The provisions of said Divorce Decree with regard to division of property and allowance of alimony are disproportionate to the total value of the jointly acquired property; and, is disproportionate to the needs of Defendant for support and the ability of the Plaintiff to provide for support.
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WHEREFORE, premises considered, Defendant prays that the Court vacate, set aside and hold for naught, the Divorce Decree heretofore entered on February 7, 1977, and that a new Divorce Decree be entered, making appropriate provision for the division of property and payment of alimony.
In his response to the petition to vacate the original divorce decree, petitioner denied that Glenda R. Yoakum had been legally incompetent due to mental illness at the time the original divorce decree was entered. Petitioner further denied Glenda R. Yoakum's allegations concerning the division of property and allowance of alimony, stating that:
 Plaintiff specifically denies that the division of property and allowance of alimony was not commensurate with the contribution made by the Defendant to the family wealth and particularly alleges that the provisions contained in the Divorce for settlement of property rights, alimony and in lieu of any other settlement were fully adequate under the conditions and circumstances of the parties.
And now on this 14th day of October, 1977, the same being a regular juridical day of the above styled Court, the above entitled and numbered cause comes on for hearing in its regular order before the undersigned Judge of the District Court with the plaintiff appearing by Ernest R. Brown, his Attorney and with the Defendant appearing by Floyd L. Walker, her Attorney, whereupon statements are made to the Court with respect to the validity of the Decree of Divorce entered on 7 February, 1977, the subsequent actions of the parties and that the parties have settled their differences with respect to additional alimony, from which the Court finds that the provisions of the Divorce Decree entered on 7 February, 1977 should be confirmed except with respect to an additional payment in the total sum of $1,800.00 as alimony to the Defendant, the Court further finding that Plaintiff has complied with the settlement provided in the former Decree in all respects to date and has made all the payments required of him, and being fully advised in the premises.
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IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the provisions with respect to alimony to be paid by the Plaintiff to Defendant be, and the same is hereby modified in the following manner: the Defendant is hereby awarded in the nature of alimony and in lieu of any other settlement and the Plaintiff is hereby required to pay unto her, the total sum of $4,800.00 payable at the rate of $250.00 per month commencing on the 7th day of March, 1977 and thereafter until the 7th day of February, 1978; said Plaintiff is further required to pay to the Defendant the sum of $150.00 per month commencing the 7th day of March, 1978, with the final payment thereof on the 7th day of February, 1979. Upon full payment thereof, the Defendant shall execute unto the Plaintiff a release of all claims by virtue hereof and the final installment (otherwise due on 7 February, 1979) not to be paid until the execution and delivery of said release.
Petitioner did subsequently make all the payments required of him, and Glenda R. Yoakum filed a "Receipt and Release of Judgment" with the District Court of Mayes County on January 29, 1979, to acknowledge the receipt of all payments from petitioner.
The real property to which petitioner acquired fee simple title under the divorce decree consisted of approximately 55 acres of pasture land purchased by petitioner and Glenda R. Yoakum in 1975 for about $20,000. They built a new house on
At the time the original divorce decree was filed, petitioner was vice president of the Bank of Locust Grove, and had been employed by the Bank of Locust Grove for a period of 4 years. His salary as vice president was about $20,000 a year.
Petitioner also owned 200 or 300 shares of the capital stock of the Bank of Locust Grove, representing about 2 percent of the outstanding shares of such stock. There is no evidence in the record as to the date on which petitioner acquired such stock or the value of that stock.
Petitioner also retained custody of the joint bank accounts after the divorce, but such accounts were exhausted by payment of the $2,000 lump-sum figure within 5 days of the divorce decree, so any balance remaining was not substantial.
At no time prior to or during the divorce proceeding did petitioner and Glenda R. Yoakum discuss the tax consequences of the monetary payments required by the divorce decree. Similarly, the spouses did not discuss and no agreement was reached between them as to whether the payments would terminate if Glenda R. Yoakum died or remarried.
On his 1977 tax return, petitioner claimed a deduction of $2,850 for alimony paid. In his statutory notice of deficiency, respondent determined that the $2,850 paid by petitioner to his former wife, Glenda R. Yoakum, did not constitute alimony payments for support and was therefore not deductible by petitioner.
Section 71(c)(1) provides, in pertinent part, that "installment payments discharging a part of an obligation the principal sum of which is, either in terms of money or property, specified in the decree * * * shall not be treated as periodic payments." Where the payments are to be paid over a period ending 10 years or less from the date of the divorce decree, as in this case, section 1.71-1(d)(3)(i) and (ii), Income Tax Regs., provides a specific exception to the restrictions of section 71(c)(1) and permits payments that might otherwise be considered "installment payments" to be considered instead as "periodic payments." That exception applies where (1) the payments are subject to one or more of the contingencies of death of either spouse, remarriage of the wife, or change in the economic
Petitioner contends that the payments to his former wife satisfy all of these requirements, are includable in the gross income of his wife,
Respondent contends that the payments in question here are neither "periodic" nor for support. Respondent contends that the payments are installment payments discharging a principal sum specified in the decree, and are therefore not considered periodic under the terms of section 71(c)(1). Further, respondent contends that the exception provided by section 1.71-1(d)(3)(i) and (ii), Income Tax Regs., is inapplicable here.
For the payments in question to be considered periodic, section 1.71-1(d)(3)(i) and (ii), Income Tax Regs., requires that such payments be for support and be subject to certain designated contingencies: death of either spouse, remarriage of the wife, or change in the economic status of either spouse. Here the divorce decree was silent as to whether the payments were for support and as to any such contingencies. However, section 1.71-1(d)(3)(ii)(a), Income Tax Regs., provides such contingencies may be imposed by the divorce decree or imposed by local law.
Under Oklahoma law, the term "alimony" refers to both support payments and to a division of property. See Funnell v. Funnell,
The pertinent Oklahoma statutory provision in effect for the year in issue (Okla. Stat. tit. 12, sec. 1289(B) (1971)), provided as follows:
In any divorce decree entered after December 31, 1967, which provides for periodic alimony payments, the court, at the time of entering the original decree, only, may designate all or a portion of each such payment as support, and all or a portion of such payment as a payment pertaining to a division of property. Upon the death of the recipient, the payments for support, if not already accrued, shall terminate, but the payments pertaining to a division of property shall continue until completed; and the decree shall so specify. The payments pertaining to a division of property shall be irrevocable. Upon the presentation of proper proof of death of such recipient, the court shall order the judgment for support to be terminated, and the lien thereof released unless a proper claim shall be made for any past due support payments by any executor, administrator or heir within ninety (90) days from the date of death of the recipient. The court shall also provide in the divorce decree that any such support payments shall terminate after remarriage of the recipient, unless the recipient can make a proper showing that said support is still needed and that circumstances have not rendered
Under this statutory provision, as construed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the trial court can designate a portion of the payment as support only at the time of entering the original divorce decree and cannot later modify, alter, or amend the divorce decree to so provide. Shea v. Shea,
Petitioner nonetheless contends that the payments were subject to contingencies in that the trial court had power to modify, alter, or amend the divorce decree, and in fact exercised such power in the order dated October 14, 1977. However, we think that in order for the possibility of judicial modification to be a contingency within the meaning of section 1.71-1(d)(3)(i) and (ii), Income Tax Regs., the basis for such modification must be grounded upon one of the contingencies designated in the regulation. Thus, if the decree, instrument, or agreement is not subject to modification by reason of the death of either spouse, remarriage of the wife, or change in the economic status of either spouse, the fact that the decree, instrument, or agreement may be modified on other grounds is not sufficient to subject such payments to contingencies within the meaning of section 1.71-1(d)(3)(i) and (ii), Income Tax Regs. Kent v. Commissioner,
Petitioner attempts to utilize language in the application to vacate the original divorce decree to bolster his argument that the payments in question were for support and could be and were modified by the trial court. That application did allege that the provisions of the original divorce decree were disproportionate to the needs of his ex-wife for support and the
Although the Oklahoma trial courts may possess authority to modify, alter, or amend their divorce decrees upon certain grounds, such possibility of modification, since not based on the grounds enumerated in section 1.71-1(d)(3)(i) and (ii), Income Tax Regs., does not constitute a contingency imposed by local law within the meaning of such regulation. We thus conclude that the payments in this case are not "periodic payments" as required by section 71(a).
Whether as an element required by the exception in the regulation to the installment payments provision of section 71(c)(1) or as an independent requirement of section 71(a), petitioner has the burden of proving that the payments in question were in the nature of support rather than a property settlement. Welch v. Helvering,
Petitioner's argument that such payments were in the nature of support centers around their designation in the
The language of the divorce decree, itself, also supports our conclusion that the payments herein were not for support. The original divorce decree provided that "by way of alimony, and in lieu of any other settlement," petitioner was to pay a fixed sum to his ex-wife. This language indicates merely the form in which the property settlement was to be accomplished— monthly cash payments instead of an in-kind division—and not the character of those payments as support.
While we think Oklahoma law supports our view, we do not base our decision upon how such payments would be classified under Oklahoma law. See note 7. There are other factors present which the courts have relied upon to support a finding that the payments pertained to a division of property rather than support. In Riley v. Commissioner,
The amount of the payments here constituted a fixed sum. We do not believe the subsequent modification of the divorce
The payments in question were not related to the husband's income. Rather, the divorce decree specified a certain amount of the principal obligation that was to be paid each month. The decree is completely silent as to what effect, if any, a change in the petitioner's income would have on the amount of the monthly installments.
The payments in question would have continued despite the death or remarriage of petitioner's wife. The decree is completely devoid of any language which would allow termination of the payments upon death or remarriage pursuant to Oklahoma Statutes title 12, section 1289(b) (1971). That statute provides that payments pertaining to a division of property, as we have concluded the payments in question here were, shall be irrevocable.
We think the record justifies a finding that the petitioner's former wife relinquished property interests in return for the payments. The relevant Oklahoma statute, Oklahoma Statutes title 12, section 1278 (1971), provides, in pertinent part, that:
As to such property, whether real or personal, which has been acquired by the parties jointly during their marriage, whether the title thereto be in either or both of said parties, the court shall make such division between the parties as may appear just and reasonable, by a division of property in kind, or by setting the same apart to one of the parties, and requiring the other thereof to pay such sum as may be just and proper to effect a fair and just division thereof.
In Gammill v. Commissioner, 73 T.C. at 929, we noted that:
the Supreme Court of Oklahoma has stated that the nature of a wife's interest in jointly acquired property, property acquired by the joint effort of the spouses during marriage, "is similar in conception to community property of community property states, and is regarded as held by a species of common ownership." Collins v. Oklahoma Tax Commission,
In affirming our holding in Gammill on this point, the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit stated that "Even though Oklahoma is not a community property state, it does recognize the equity of the wife in property which has accumulated during the continuance of the marriage and allows appropriate division to be made. The wife's interest in jointly acquired property vests on the pendency of the divorce. Sanditen v. Sanditen,
In light of the foregoing, we feel it is proper to view this transaction as one in which petitioner's ex-wife relinquished her right to an "equitable division" of some of the property in-kind in return for the monthly installment payments in cash. Petitioner testified that he and his former wife acquired various properties during their marriage, most notably 55 acres of land, a recently constructed home, and 200 to 300 shares of bank stock. As noted in our findings of fact, we do not accept petitioner's suggestion that the $2,000 lump-sum payment and the used automobile received by the wife constituted an equitable division of this property. In short, in lieu of an undivided interest in some of the jointly acquired properties, petitioner received fee simple title to the real property and the stocks, and his former spouse received her equitable share by way of monthly cash payments totaling $4,800. These facts justify the conclusion that petitioner's former wife relinquished property interests in return for the payments.
The final factor listed by the court in the Riley case is whether the husband's obligation to make the payments is secured. Based on the record herein, we cannot determine whether or not petitioner's obligation was secured. However, we note that the wife was required to give a receipt and a release upon the final payment, which may suggest that there was security involved. In any event, the presence of security is merely one factor indicative of a property settlement, and not a prerequisite. Therefore, assuming there was no security, the absence of a secured obligation does not negate the other factors present herein, all of which support a finding that the payments at issue constituted a property settlement rather than support payments.
To reflect the foregoing,
Decision will be entered for the respondent.
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