Lucia et al. v. Securities and Exchange Commission
Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Circuit
No. 17-130. Argued April 23, 2018--Decided June 21, 2018
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC or Commission) has statutory authority to enforce the nation’s securities laws. One way it can do so is by instituting an administrative proceeding against an alleged wrongdoer. Typically, the Commission delegates the task of presiding over such a proceeding to an administrative law judge (ALJ). The SEC currently has five ALJs. Other staff members, rather than the Commission proper, selected them all. An ALJ assigned to hear an SEC enforcement action has the “authority to do all things necessary and appropriate” to ensure a “fair and orderly” adversarial proceeding. 17 CFR §§201.111, 200.14(a). After a hearing ends, the ALJ issues an initial decision. The Commission can review that decision, but if it opts against review, it issues an order that the initial decision has become final. See §201.360(d). The initial decision is then “deemed the action of the Commission.” 15 U. S. C. §78d–1(c).
The SEC charged petitioner Raymond Lucia with violating certain securities laws and assigned ALJ Cameron Elliot to adjudicate the case. Following a hearing, Judge Elliot issued an initial decision concluding that Lucia had violated the law and imposing sanctions. On appeal to the SEC, Lucia argued that the administrative proceeding was invalid because Judge Elliot had not been constitutionally appointed. According to Lucia, SEC ALJs are “Officers of the United States” and thus subject to the Appointments Clause. Under that Clause, only the President, “Courts of Law,” or “Heads of Departments” can appoint such “Officers.” But none of those actors had made Judge Elliot an ALJ. The SEC and the Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit rejected Lucia’s argument, holding that SEC ALJs are not “Officers of the United States,” but are instead mere employees—officials with lesser responsibilities who are not subject to the Appointments Clause.
Held: The Commission’s ALJs are “Officers of the United States,” subject to the Appointments Clause. Pp. 5–13.
(a) This Court’s decisions in United States v. Germaine, 99 U. S. 508, and Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, set out the basic framework for distinguishing between officers and employees. To qualify as an officer, rather than an employee, an individual must occupy a “continuing” position established by law, Germaine, 99 U. S., at 511, and must “exercis[e] significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States,” Buckley, 424 U. S., at 126.
In Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U. S. 868, the Court applied this framework to “special trial judges” (STJs) of the United States Tax Court. STJs could issue the final decision of the Tax Court in “comparatively narrow and minor matters.” Id., at 873. In more major matters, they could preside over the hearing but could not issue a final decision. Instead, they were to “prepare proposed findings and an opinion” for a regular Tax Court judge to consider. Ibid. The proceeding challenged in Freytag was a major one. The losing parties argued on appeal that the STJ who presided over their hearing was not constitutionally appointed.
This Court held that STJs are officers. Citing Germaine, the Freytag Court first found that STJs hold a continuing office established by law. See 501 U. S., at 881. The Court then considered, as Buckley demands, the “significance” of the “authority” STJs wield. 501 U. S., at 881. The Government had argued that STJs are employees in all cases in which they could not enter a final decision. But the Court thought that the Government’s focus on finality “ignore[d] the significance of the duties and discretion that [STJs] possess.” Ibid. Describing the responsibilities involved in presiding over adversarial hearings, the Court said: STJs “take testimony, conduct trials, rule on the admissibility of evidence, and have the power to enforce compliance with discovery orders.” Id., at 881–882. And the Court observed that “[i]n the course of carrying out these important functions,” STJs “exercise significant discretion.” Id., at 882.
Freytag’s analysis decides this case. The Commission’s ALJs, like the Tax Court’s STJs, hold a continuing office established by law. SEC ALJs “receive[ ] a career appointment,” 5 CFR §930.204(a), to a position created by statute, see 5 U. S. C. §§556–557, 5372, 3105. And they exercise the same “significant discretion” when carrying out the same “important functions” as STJs do. Freytag, 501 U. S., at 882. Both sets of officials have all the authority needed to ensure fair and orderly adversarial hearings—indeed, nearly all the tools of federal trial judges. The Commission’s ALJs, like the Tax Court’s STJs, “take testimony,” “conduct trials,” “rule on the admissibility of evidence,” and “have the power to enforce compliance with discovery orders.” Id., at 881–882. So point for point from Freytag’s list, SEC ALJs have equivalent duties and powers as STJs in conducting adversarial inquiries.
Moreover, at the close of those proceedings, SEC ALJs issue decisions much like that in Freytag. STJs prepare proposed findings and an opinion adjudicating charges and assessing tax liabilities. Similarly, the Commission’s ALJs issue initial decisions containing factual findings, legal conclusions, and appropriate remedies. And what happens next reveals that the ALJ can play the more autonomous role. In a major Tax Court case, a regular Tax Court judge must always review an STJ’s opinion, and that opinion comes to nothing unless the regular judge adopts it. By contrast, the SEC can decide against reviewing an ALJ’s decision, and when it does so the ALJ’s decision itself “becomes final” and is “deemed the action of the Commission.” 17 CFR §201.360(d)(2); 15 U. S. C. §78d–1(c). Pp. 5–11.
(b) Judge Elliot heard and decided Lucia’s case without a constitutional appointment. “[O]ne who makes a timely challenge to the constitutional validity of the appointment of an officer who adjudicates his case” is entitled to relief. Ryder v. United States, 515 U. S. 177, 182. Lucia made just such a timely challenge. And the “appropriate” remedy for an adjudication tainted with an appointments violation is a new “hearing before a properly appointed” official. Id., at 183, 188. In this case, that official cannot be Judge Elliot, even if he has by now received a constitutional appointment. Having already both heard Lucia’s case and issued an initial decision on the merits, he cannot be expected to consider the matter as though he had not adjudicated it before. To cure the constitutional error, another ALJ (or the Commission itself) must hold the new hearing. Pp. 12–13.
868 F. 3d 1021, reversed and remanded.
Kagan, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Gorsuch, J., joined. Breyer, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which Ginsburg and Sotomayor, JJ., joined as to Part III. Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, J., joined.
Pereira v. Sessions, Attorney General
Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The First Circuit
No. 17-459. Argued April 23, 2018--Decided June 21, 2018
Under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), nonpermanent residents who are subject to removal proceedings may be eligible for cancellation of removal if, among other things, they have “been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than 10 years immediately preceding the date of [an] application” for cancellation. 8 U. S. C. §1229(b)(1)(A). Under the stop-time rule, however, the period of continuous presence is “deemed to end . . . when the alien is served a notice to appear under section 1229(a).” §1229(d)(1)(A). Section 1229(a), in turn, provides that the Government shall serve noncitizens in removal proceedings with a written “ ‘notice to appear,’ ” specifying, among other things, “[t]he time and place at which the [removal] proceedings will be held.” §1229(a)(1)(G)(i). Per a 1997 regulation stating that a “notice to appear” served on a noncitizen need only provide “the time, place and date of the initial removal hearing, where practicable,” 62 Fed. Reg. 10332, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), at least in recent years, almost always serves noncitizens with notices that fail to specify the time, place, or date of initial removal hearings whenever the agency deems it impracticable to include such information. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has held that such notices trigger the stop-time rule even if they do not specify the time and date of the removal proceedings.
Petitioner Wescley Fonseca Pereira is a native and citizen of Brazil who came to the United States in 2000 and remained after his visa expired. Following a 2006 arrest for operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, DHS served Pereira with a document titled “notice to appear” that did not specify the date and time of his initial removal hearing, instead ordering him to appear at a time and date to be set in the future. More than a year later, in 2007, the Immigration Court mailed Pereira a more specific notice setting the date and time for his initial hearing, but the notice was sent to the wrong address and was returned as undeliverable. As a result, Pereira failed to appear, and the Immigration Court ordered him removed in absentia.
In 2013, Pereira was arrested for a minor motor vehicle violation and detained by DHS. The Immigration Court reopened the removal proceedings after Pereira demonstrated that he never received the 2007 notice. Pereira then applied for cancellation of removal, arguing that he had been continuously present in the United States for more than 10 years and that the stop-time rule was not triggered by DHS’ initial 2006 notice because the document lacked information about the time and date of his removal hearing. The Immigration Court disagreed and ordered Pereira removed. The BIA agreed with the Immigration Court that the 2006 notice triggered the stop-time rule, even though it failed to specify the time and date of Pereira’s initial removal hearing. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit denied Pereira’s petition for review of the BIA’s order. Applying the framework set forth in Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, it held that the stop-time rule is ambiguous and that the BIA’s interpretation of the rule was a permissible reading of the statute.
Held: A putative notice to appear that fails to designate the specific time or place of the noncitizen’s removal proceedings is not a “notice to appear under §1229(a),” and so does not trigger the stop-time rule. Pp. 7–20.
(a) The Court need not resort to Chevron deference, for the unambiguous statutory text alone is enough to resolve this case. Under the stop-time rule, “any period of . . . continuous physical presence” is “deemed to end . . . when the alien is served a notice to appear under section 1229(a).” 8 U. S. C. §1229b(d)(1). By expressly referencing §1229(a), the statute specifies where to look to find out what “notice to appear” means. Section 1229(a), in turn, clarifies that the type of notice “referred to as a ‘notice to appear’ ” throughout the statutory section is a “written notice . . . specifying,” as relevant here, “[t]he time and place at which the [removal] proceedings will be held.” §1229(a)(1)(G)(i). Thus, to trigger the stop-time rule, the Government must serve a notice to appear that, at the very least, “specif[ies]” the “time and place” of the removal hearing.
The Government and dissent point out that the stop-time rule refers broadly to a notice to appear under “§1229(a)”—which includes paragraph (1), as well as paragraphs (2) and (3). But that does not matter, because only paragraph (1) bears on the meaning of a “notice to appear.” If anything, paragraph (2), which allows for a “change or postponement” of the proceedings to a “new time and place,” §1229(a)(2)(A)(i), bolsters the Court’s interpretation of the statute because the provision presumes that the Government has already served a “notice to appear” that specified a time and place as required by §1229(a)(1)(G)(i). Another neighboring provision, §1229(b)(1), lends further support for the view that a “notice to appear” must specify the time and place of removal proceedings to trigger the stop-time rule. Section 1229(b)(1) gives a noncitizen “the opportunity to secure counsel before the first [removal] hearing date” by mandating that such “hearing date shall not be scheduled earlier than 10 days after the service of the notice to appear.” For that provision to have any meaning, the “notice to appear” must specify the time and place that the noncitizen, and his counsel, must appear at the removal proceedings. Finally, common sense reinforces the conclusion that a notice that does not specify when and where to appear for a removal proceeding is not a “notice to appear” that triggers the stop-time rule. After all, an essential function of a “notice to appear” is to provide noncitizens “notice” of the information (i.e., the “time” and “place”) that would enable them “to appear” at the removal hearing in the first place. Without conveying such information, the Government cannot reasonably expect noncitizens to appear for their removal proceedings. Pp. 7–13.
(b) The Government and the dissent advance a litany of counterarguments, all of which are unpersuasive. To begin, the Government mistakenly argues that §1229(a) is not definitional. That is wrong. Section 1229(a) speaks in definitional terms, requiring that a notice to appear specify, among other things, the “time and place at which the proceedings will be held.” As such, the dissent is misguided in arguing that a defective notice to appear, which fails to specify time-and-place information, is still a notice to appear for purposes of the stop-time rule. Equally unavailing is the Government’s (and the dissent’s) attempt to generate ambiguity in the statute based on the word “under.” In light of the plain language and statutory context, the word “under,” as used in the stop-time rule, clearly means “in accordance with” or “according to” because it connects the stop-time trigger in §1229b(d)(1) to a “notice to appear” that specifies the enumerated time-and-place information. The Government fares no better in arguing that surrounding statutory provisions reinforce its preferred reading of the stop-time rule, as none of those provisions supports its atextual interpretation. Unable to root its reading in the statutory text, the Government and dissent raise a number of practical concerns, but those concerns are meritless and do not justify departing from the statute’s clear text. In a final attempt to salvage its atextual interpretation, the Government turns to the alleged statutory purpose and legislative history of the stop-time rule. Even for those who consider statutory purpose and legislative history, however, neither supports the Government’s position. Requiring the Government to furnish time-and-place information in a notice to appear is entirely consistent with Congress’ stated objective of preventing noncitizens from exploiting administrative delays to accumulate lengthier periods of continuous precedent. Pp. 13–20.
866 F. 3d 1, reversed and remanded.
Sotomayor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Gorsuch, JJ., joined. Kennedy, J., filed a concurring opinion. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., et al.
Certiorari To The Supreme Court Of South Dakota
No. 17-494. Argued April 17, 2018--Decided June 21, 2018
South Dakota, like many States, taxes the retail sales of goods and services in the State. Sellers are required to collect and remit the tax to the State, but if they do not then in-state consumers are responsible for paying a use tax at the same rate. Under National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Ill., 386 U. S. 753, and Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U. S. 298, South Dakota may not require a business that has no physical presence in the State to collect its sales tax. Consumer compliance rates are notoriously low, however, and it is estimated that Bellas Hess and Quill cause South Dakota to lose between $48 and $58 million annually. Concerned about the erosion of its sales tax base and corresponding loss of critical funding for state and local services, the South Dakota Legislature enacted a law requiring out-of-state sellers to collect and remit sales tax “as if the seller had a physical presence in the State.” The Act covers only sellers that, on an annual basis, deliver more than $100,000 of goods or services into the State or engage in 200 or more separate transactions for the delivery of goods or services into the State. Respondents, top online retailers with no employees or real estate in South Dakota, each meet the Act’s minimum sales or transactions requirement, but do not collect the State’s sales tax. South Dakota filed suit in state court, seeking a declaration that the Act’s requirements are valid and applicable to respondents and an injunction requiring respondents to register for licenses to collect and remit the sales tax. Respondents sought summary judgment, arguing that the Act is unconstitutional. The trial court granted their motion. The State Supreme Court affirmed on the ground that Quill is controlling precedent.
Held: Because the physical presence rule of Quill is unsound and incorrect, Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U. S. 298, and National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Ill., 386 U. S. 753, are overruled. Pp. 5–24.
(a) An understanding of this Court’s Commerce Clause principles and their application to state taxes is instructive here. Pp. 5–9.
(1) Two primary principles mark the boundaries of a State’s authority to regulate interstate commerce: State regulations may not discriminate against interstate commerce; and States may not impose undue burdens on interstate commerce. These principles guide the courts in adjudicating challenges to state laws under the Commerce Clause. Pp. 5–7.
(2) They also animate Commerce Clause precedents addressing the validity of state taxes, which will be sustained so long as they (1) apply to an activity with a substantial nexus with the taxing State, (2) are fairly apportioned, (3) do not discriminate against interstate commerce, and (4) are fairly related to the services the State provides. See Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, 430 U. S. 274, 279. Before Complete Auto, the Court held in Bellas Hess that a “seller whose only connection with customers in the State is by common carrier or . . . mail” lacked the requisite minimum contacts with the State required by the Due Process Clause and the Commerce Clause, and that unless the retailer maintained a physical presence in the State, the State lacked the power to require that retailer to collect a local tax. 386 U. S., at 758. In Quill, the Court overruled the due process holding, but not the Commerce Clause holding, grounding the physical presence rule in Complete Auto’s requirement that a tax have a “substantial nexus” with the activity being taxed. Pp. 7–9.
(b) The physical presence rule has long been criticized as giving out-of-state sellers an advantage. Each year, it becomes further removed from economic reality and results in significant revenue losses to the States. These critiques underscore that the rule, both as first formulated and as applied today, is an incorrect interpretation of the Commerce Clause. Pp. 9–17.
(1) Quill is flawed on its own terms. First, the physical presence rule is not a necessary interpretation of Complete Auto’s nexus requirement. That requirement is “closely related,” Bellas Hess, 386 U. S. at 756, to the due process requirement that there be “some definite link, some minimum connection, between a state and the person, property or transaction it seeks to tax.” Miller Brothers Co. v. Maryland, 347 U. S. 340, 344–345. And, as Quill itself recognized, a business need not have a physical presence in a State to satisfy the demands of due process. When considering whether a State may levy a tax, Due Process and Commerce Clause standards, though not identical or coterminous, have significant parallels. The reasons given in Quill for rejecting the physical presence rule for due process purposes apply as well to the question whether physical presence is a requisite for an out-of-state seller’s liability to remit sales taxes. Other aspects of the Court’s doctrine can better and more accurately address potential burdens on interstate commerce, whether or not Quill’s physical presence rule is satisfied.
Second, Quill creates rather than resolves market distortions. In effect, it is a judicially created tax shelter for businesses that limit their physical presence in a State but sell their goods and services to the State’s consumers, something that has become easier and more prevalent as technology has advanced. The rule also produces an incentive to avoid physical presence in multiple States, affecting development that might be efficient or desirable.
Third, Quill imposes the sort of arbitrary, formalistic distinction that the Court’s modern Commerce Clause precedents disavow in favor of “a sensitive, case-by-case analysis of purposes and effects,” West Lynn Creamery, Inc. v. Healy, 512 U. S. 186, 201. It treats economically identical actors differently for arbitrary reasons. For example, a business that maintains a few items of inventory in a small warehouse in a State is required to collect and remit a tax on all of its sales in the State, while a seller with a pervasive Internet presence cannot be subject to the same tax for the sales of the same items. Pp. 10–14.
(2) When the day-to-day functions of marketing and distribution in the modern economy are considered, it becomes evident that Quill’s physical presence rule is artificial, not just “at its edges,” 504 U. S. at 315, but in its entirety. Modern e-commerce does not align analytically with a test that relies on the sort of physical presence defined in Quill. And the Court should not maintain a rule that ignores substantial virtual connections to the State. Pp. 14–15.
(3) The physical presence rule of Bellas Hess and Quill is also an extraordinary imposition by the Judiciary on States’ authority to collect taxes and perform critical public functions. Forty-one States, two Territories, and the District of Columbia have asked the Court to reject Quill’s test. Helping respondents’ customers evade a lawful tax unfairly shifts an increased share of the taxes to those consumers who buy from competitors with a physical presence in the State. It is essential to public confidence in the tax system that the Court avoid creating inequitable exceptions. And it is also essential to the confidence placed in the Court’s Commerce Clause decisions. By giving some online retailers an arbitrary advantage over their competitors who collect state sales taxes, Quill’s physical presence rule has limited States’ ability to seek long-term prosperity and has prevented market participants from competing on an even playing field. Pp. 16–17.
(c) Stare decisis can no longer support the Court’s prohibition of a valid exercise of the States’ sovereign power. If it becomes apparent that the Court’s Commerce Clause decisions prohibit the States from exercising their lawful sovereign powers, the Court should be vigilant in correcting the error. It is inconsistent with this Court’s proper role to ask Congress to address a false constitutional premise of this Court’s own creation. The Internet revolution has made Quill’s original error all the more egregious and harmful. The Quill Court did not have before it the present realities of the interstate marketplace, where the Internet’s prevalence and power have changed the dynamics of the national economy. The expansion of e-commerce has also increased the revenue shortfall faced by States seeking to collect their sales and use taxes, leading the South Dakota Legislature to declare an emergency. The argument, moreover, that the physical presence rule is clear and easy to apply is unsound, as attempts to apply the physical presence rule to online retail sales have proved unworkable.
Because the physical presence rule as defined by Quill is no longer a clear or easily applicable standard, arguments for reliance based on its clarity are misplaced. Stare decisis may accommodate “legitimate reliance interest[s],” United States v. Ross, 456 U. S. 798, 824, but a business “is in no position to found a constitutional right . . . on the practical opportunities for tax avoidance,” Nelson v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 312 U. S. 359, 366. Startups and small businesses may benefit from the physical presence rule, but here South Dakota affords small merchants a reasonable degree of protection. Finally, other aspects of the Court’s Commerce Clause doctrine can protect against any undue burden on interstate commerce, taking into consideration the small businesses, startups, or others who engage in commerce across state lines. The potential for such issues to arise in some later case cannot justify retaining an artificial, anachronistic rule that deprives States of vast revenues from major businesses. Pp. 17–22.
(d) In the absence of Quill and Bellas Hess, the first prong of the Complete Auto test simply asks whether the tax applies to an activity with a substantial nexus with the taxing State, 430 U. S., at 279. Here, the nexus is clearly sufficient. The Act applies only to sellers who engage in a significant quantity of business in the State, and respondents are large, national companies that undoubtedly maintain an extensive virtual presence. Any remaining claims regarding the Commerce Clause’s application in the absence of Quill and Bellas Hess may be addressed in the first instance on remand. Pp. 22–23.
2017 S.D. 56, 901 N. W. 2d 754, vacated and remanded.
Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito, and Gorsuch, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., and Gorsuch, J., filed concurring opinions. Roberts, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined.
Wisconsin Central Ltd. et al. v. United States
Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Seventh Circuit
No. 17-530. Argued April 16, 2018--Decided June 21, 2018
As the Great Depression took its toll, struggling railroad pension funds reached the brink of insolvency. During that time before the rise of the modern interstate highway system, privately owned railroads employed large numbers of Americans and provided services vital to the nation’s commerce. To address the emergency, Congress adopted the Railroad Retirement Tax Act of 1937. That legislation federalized private railroad pension plans and it remains in force even today. Under the law’s terms, private railroads and their employees pay a tax based on employees’ incomes. In return, the federal government provides employees a pension often more generous than the social security system supplies employees in other industries.
This case arises from a peculiar feature of the statute and its history. At the time of the Act’s adoption, railroads compensated employees not just with money but also with food, lodging, railroad tickets, and the like. Because railroads typically didn’t count these in-kind benefits when calculating an employee’s pension on retirement, neither did Congress in its new statutory pension scheme. Nor did Congress seek to tax these in-kind benefits. Instead, it limited its levies to employee “compensation,” and defined that term to capture only “any form of money remuneration.”
It’s this limitation that poses today’s question. To encourage employee performance and to align employee and corporate goals, some railroads have (like employers in many fields) adopted employee stock option plans. The government argues that these stock options qualify as a form of “compensation” subject to taxation under the Act. In its view, stock options can easily be converted into money and so qualify as “money remuneration.” The railroads and their employees reply that stock options aren’t “money remuneration” and remind the Court that when Congress passed the Act it sought to mimic existing industry pension practices that generally took no notice of in-kind benefits. Who has the better of it?
Held: Employee stock options are not taxable “compensation” under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act because they are not “money remuneration.”
When Congress adopted the Act in 1937, “money” was understood as currency “issued by [a] recognized authority as a medium of exchange.” Pretty obviously, stock options do not fall within that definition. While stock can be bought or sold for money, it isn’t usually considered a medium of exchange. Few people value goods and services in terms of stock, or buy groceries and pay rent with stock. Adding the word “remuneration” also does not alter the meaning of the phrase. When the statute speaks of taxing “any form of money remuneration,” it indicates Congress wanted to tax monetary compensation in any of the many forms an employer might choose. It does not prove that Congress wanted to tax things, like stock, that are not money at all.
The broader statutory context points to this conclusion. For example, the 1939 Internal Revenue Code, adopted just two years later, also treated “money” and “stock” as different things. See, e.g., §27(d). And a companion statute enacted by the same Congress, the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, taxes “all remuneration,” including benefits “paid in any medium other than cash.” §3121(a). The Congress that enacted both of these pension schemes knew well the difference between “money” and “all” forms of remuneration and its choice to use the narrower term in the context of railroad pensions alone requires respect, not disregard.
Even the IRS (then the Bureau of Internal Revenue) seems to have understood all this back in 1938. Shortly after the Railroad Retirement Tax Act’s enactment, the IRS issued a regulation explaining that the Act taxes “all remuneration in money, or in something which may be used in lieu of money (scrip and merchandise orders, for example).” The regulation said the Act covered things like “[s]alaries, wages, commissions, fees, [and] bonuses.” But the regulation nowhere suggested that stock was taxable.
In light of these textual and structural clues and others, the Court thinks it’s clear enough that the term “money” unambiguously excludes “stock.” Pp. 2–8.
856 F. 3d 490, reversed and remanded.
Gorsuch, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined.