Newark Morning Ledger Co. v. United States, 507 U.S. 546, 4 (1993)

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Cite as: 507 U. S. 546 (1993)

Opinion of the Court


Petitioner Newark Morning Ledger Co., a New Jersey corporation, is a newspaper publisher. It is the successor to The Herald Company with which it merged in 1987. Eleven years earlier, in 1976, Herald had purchased substantially all the outstanding shares of Booth Newspapers, Inc., the publisher of daily and Sunday newspapers in eight Michigan communities.2 Herald and Booth merged on May 31, 1977, and Herald continued to publish the eight papers under their old names. Tax code provisions in effect in 1977 required that Herald allocate its adjusted income tax basis in the Booth shares among the assets acquired in proportion to their respective fair market values at the time of the merger. See 26 U. S. C. 332 and 334(b)(2) (1976 ed.).3

Prior to the merger, Herald's adjusted basis in the Booth shares was approximately $328 million. Herald allocated $234 million of this to various financial assets (cash, securities, accounts and notes receivable, the shares of its wholly owned subsidiary that published Parade Magazine, etc.) and tangible assets (land, buildings, inventories, production

"(2) of property held for the production of income." Treasury Regulations 1.167(a)-(3) interprets 167(a) and states: "If an intangible asset is known from experience or other factors to be of use in the business or in the production of income for only a limited period, the length of which can be estimated with reasonable accuracy, such an intangible asset may be the subject of a depreciation allowance. Examples are patents and copyrights. An intangible asset, the useful life of which is not limited, is not subject to the allowance for depreciation. No allowance will be permitted merely because, in the unsupported opinion of the taxpayer, the intangible asset has a limited useful life. No deduction for depreciation is allowable with respect to goodwill." 26 CFR 1.167(a)-3 (1992).

2 The eight Michigan papers were The Ann Arbor News, The Bay City Times, The Flint Journal, The Grand Rapids Press, The Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, The Muskegon Chronicle, and The Saginaw News.

3 Section 334(b)(2) was repealed in 1982 and replaced by the somewhat different provisions of the present 338 of the Code.


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