Newark Morning Ledger Co. v. United States, 507 U.S. 546, 13 (1993)

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Opinion of the Court

given time, but each individual part enjoys no separate capital standing independent of the whole, for its disappearance affects but does not interrupt or destroy the continued existence of the whole." Golden State Towel & Linen Service, Ltd. v. United States, 179 Ct. Cl. 300, 310, 373 F. 2d 938, 944 (1967).

The mass-asset rule prohibits the depreciation of certain customer-based intangibles because they constitute self-regenerating assets that may change but never waste. Although there may have been some doubt prior to 1973 as to whether the mass-asset rule required that any asset related to the expectancy of continued patronage always be treated as nondepreciable goodwill as a matter of law, that doubt was put to rest by the Fifth Circuit in the Houston Chronicle case. The court there considered whether subscription lists, acquired as part of the taxpayer's purchase of The Houston Press, were depreciable. The taxpayer had no intention of continuing publication of the purchased paper, so there was no question of the lists' being self-regenerating; they had value only to the extent that they furnished names and addresses of prospective subscribers to the taxpayer's newspaper. After reviewing the history of the mass-asset rule, the court concluded that there was no per se rule that an intangible asset is nondepreciable whenever it is related to goodwill. On the contrary, the rule does not prevent taking a depreciation allowance "if the taxpayer properly carries his dual burden of proving that the intangible asset involved (1) has an ascertainable value separate and distinct from goodwill, and (2) has a limited useful life, the duration of which can be ascertained with reasonable accuracy." Houston Chronicle, 481 F. 2d, at 1250.

Following the decision in Houston Chronicle, the IRS issued a new ruling, modifying prior rulings "to remove any implication that customer and subscription lists, location contracts, insurance expirations, etc., are, as a matter of law, indistinguishable from goodwill possessing no determinable

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