Economic benefit constructive receipt and assignment

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Income Tax Fundamentals 2020
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Chapter 2 / Exercise 2.13
Income Tax Fundamentals 2020
Altus-Buller/Whittenburg
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Economic Benefit, Constructive Receipt, and Assignment of Income DoctrinesThis chapter discusses three doctrines: the economic benefit doctrine, the constructive receipt doctrine, and the assignment of income doctrine. The doctrines focus on the following questions: what is income, when is it taxable, and to whom is it taxable?
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Income Tax Fundamentals 2020
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Chapter 2 / Exercise 2.13
Income Tax Fundamentals 2020
Altus-Buller/Whittenburg
Expert Verified
In determining “what” is income and “when” an item must be included in the taxable income of a cash basis taxpayer, two concepts were conceived: the economic benefit doctrine and the constructive receipt doctrine. Over time the courts have tended to blur the distinction between these two doctrines. F. Bowden,61-1 USTC¶9382, 289 F.2d 20 (CA-5 1961), reversing 32 TC 853 (1959).¶4101 ECONOMIC BENEFIT DOCTRINEThe economic benefit doctrine addresses the “what” and the constructive receipt doctrine addresses the “when.” Any amount of compensation granted or paid to the individual for services rendered, be it cash, bonus, profit sharing, compensation in kind, or any other ingenious method of payment, must be included in gross income. Gross income is defined under the broad language of Code Sec. 61(a) of the Internal Revenue Code as “all income from whatever source derived.” Thus, taxable income may consist of cash, receivables, property, land, or any other form of economic benefit.¶4125 CONSTRUCTIVE RECEIPT DOCTRINEThe second doctrine, that of constructive receipt, was defined in the case of Ross.In this case, the Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the doctrine of constructive receipt was conceived “in order to prevent the taxpayer from choosing the year in which to reduce it (income) to possession.” L.W. Ross,48-2 USTC¶9341, 169 F.2d 483 (CA-1 1948).The Regulations explain the doctrine of constructive receipt, based upon the fact that income is:credited to [the taxpayer’s] account, or set apart for him, or otherwise made available so that he may draw upon it at any time. . . . However, income is not constructively received if the taxpayer’s control of its receipt is subject to substantial limitations or restrictions. Reg. §1.451-2.A distinctive feature of the constructive receipt doctrine is that it affects only cash basis taxpayers, since they are deemed to have received income prior to the time of actual receipt. Because the accrual basis taxpayer is assumed to have recognized income at the moment it is “earned,” there is no need to apply the constructive receipt doctrine. It is of no consequence if an individual refuses compensation. The courts have ruled that once the individual has an “absolute right” to the compensation, the amount of the remuneration must be included in the taxpayer’s income. However, where the individual has only a conditional right, the courts hold that no present income was received. Generally, any compensation granted to an individual to which the individual has an absolute right is regarded as constructively received income. The taxpayer must include in current income any amounts of compensation which the taxpayer has refused to accept.

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