This is a suit to recover $6,788.03 income tax for the year 1918, paid by R.D. Robbins, late of California. Mr.
Elaborate argument was devoted to the question whether the interest of a wife in community property has the relatively substantial character in California that it has in some other States. That she has vested rights has been determined by this Court with reference to some jurisdictions, Warburton v. White, 176 U.S. 484; Arnett v. Reade, 220 U.S. 311; and the Treasury Department has carried those rights to the point of allowing a division in the return of community income in other States where the community system prevails. Regulations 65 relating to the Income Tax under the Revenue Act of 1924, Art. 31. Its adoption of a different rule for California was based, we presume, upon the notion that in that State a wife had a mere expectancy while the husband was alive.
If on the whole this notion seems to us to be adopted by the California courts it is our duty to follow it, so far as material, even if contrary expressions should be found here or there in the books; and it is no concern of ours whether the prevailing decision is a legitimate descendant from its parent the Spanish law or otherwise. — We can see no sufficient reason to doubt that the settled opinion of
But the question before us is with regard to the power and intent of the Revenue Act of February 24, 1919, c. 18, Title II, Part II, §§ 210, 211; 40 Stat. 1057, 1062. Even if we are wrong as to the law of California and assume that the wife had an interest in the community income that Congress could tax if so minded, it does not follow that Congress could not tax the husband for the whole. Although restricted in the matter of gifts, &c., he alone has the disposition of the fund. He may spend it substantially as he chooses, and if he wastes it in debauchery the wife has no redress. See Garrozi v. Dastas, 204 U.S. 64. His liability for his wife's support comes from a different source and exists whether there is community property or not. That he may be taxed for such a fund seems to us to need no argument. The same and further considerations lead to the conclusion that it was intended to tax him for the whole. For not only should he who has all the power bear the burden, and not only is the
MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND dissents.
MR. JUSTICE STONE took no part in the case.