Newark Morning Ledger Co. v. United States, 507 U.S. 546, 23 (1993)

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Opinion of the Court

of which had a limited useful life that could be estimated with reasonable accuracy according to generally accepted statistical principles. Petitioner proved as a matter of fact that the value of the "paid subscribers" diminished over an ascertainable period of time.14


Petitioner estimated the fair market value of the "paid subscribers" at approximately $67.8 million. This figure was found by computing the present value of the after-tax subscription revenues to be derived from the "paid subscribers," less the cost of collecting those revenues, and adding the present value of the tax savings resulting from the depreciation of the "paid subscribers." As the District Court explained, the taxpayer's experts "utilized this method because they each independently concluded that this method best determined the additional value of the Booth newspapers attributable to the existence of the paid subscribers as of May 31, 1977, and, thus, the fair market value of those subscribers." Id., at 183. The Government presented no evidence challenging the accuracy of this methodology. It

14 The dissent spends a substantial amount of time worrying about the sufficiency of petitioner's evidence. See post, at 576-582. The problem with petitioner's expert, according to the dissent, is that he predicted only how long a subscriber is likely to subscribe, and this "tells us nothing about how long date-of-sale subscriber habit or inertia will remain a cause of predicted subscriber faithfulness." Post, at 581. The dissent concludes that "Ledger's expert on his own terms has not even claimed to make the showing of definite duration necessary to depreciate an asset under 167(a)." Post, at 582. We have little doubt that had the Government presented credible evidence challenging the relevance of this testimony, the District Court would have had a more difficult time deciding this case. As it happened, however, petitioner's evidence of the useful life of the "paid subscribers" was the only evidence the District Court had before it. The dissent skillfully demonstrates certain vulnerabilities in petitioner's proof, but the Government chose, rather, to rest its entire case on a legal argument that we now reject. This case was lost at trial.

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