Gitlitz v. Commissioner, 531 U.S. 206, 8 (2001)

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Cite as: 531 U. S. 206 (2001)

Opinion of the Court

Section 61(a)(12) states that discharge of indebtedness generally is included in gross income. Section 108(a)(1) provides an express exception to this general rule:

"Gross income does not include any amount which (but for this subsection) would be includible in gross income by reason of the discharge . . . of indebtedness of the taxpayer if—

. . . . . "(B) the discharge occurs when the taxpayer is insolvent."

The Commissioner contends that this exclusion from gross income alters the character of the discharge of indebtedness so that it is no longer an "item of income." However, the text and structure of the statute do not support the Commissioner's theory. Section 108(a) simply does not say that discharge of indebtedness ceases to be an item of income when the S corporation is insolvent. Instead it provides only that discharge of indebtedness ceases to be included in gross income. Not all items of income are included in gross income, see 1366(a)(1) (providing that "items of income," including "tax-exempt" income, are passed through to shareholders), so mere exclusion of an amount from gross income does not imply that the amount ceases to be an item of income. Moreover, 101 through 136 employ the same construction to exclude various items from gross income: "Gross income does not include . . . ." The consequence of reading this language in the manner suggested by the Commissioner would be to exempt all items in these sections from pass-through under 1366. However, not even the Commissioner encourages us to reach this sweeping conclusion. Instead the Commissioner asserts that discharge of indebtedness is unique among the types of items excluded from gross income because no economic outlay is required of the taxpayer re-


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