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SHEFFELS v. UNITED STATES

February 8, 1967

Gilbert J. Sheffels and Eleanor Sheffels, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
v.
United States of America, Defendant. Marjorie Heitman, Plaintiff, v. United States of America, Defendant


Powell, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: POWELL

Plaintiffs ask refunds of claimed overpayments of 1961 personal income taxes. In their original returns they claimed as charitable deductions payments made for airplane travel to the Orient on People-to-People tours. The deductions were disallowed and deficiency assessments were made. The deficiencies were paid under protest. These actions are to recover the claimed overpayments. This Court's jurisdiction is under 28 USCA § 1346(a)(1).

 Plaintiffs assert their travel was under the aegis of the United States Information Service and the People-to-People organization. They therefore claim that the payments made were deductible as charitable contributions to the United States of America. This claim is under 26 USCA § 170. *fn1"

 Originally the plaintiffs claimed the amounts paid were deductible as business expense. This claim was abandoned at the trial. For the reasons stated hereafter the plaintiffs' claims that they are charitable deductions are disallowed and judgment will be entered for the defendant in both cases.

 The People-to-People organization or movement was explained in detail at the trial by Dr. Robert Hunter of Spokane. He is the President of the local chapter of the People-to-People Council of Spokane. He has recently been elected to the eleven-man board of the National Organization. He explained that in 1956 President Eisenhower advocated the formation of organizations to promote travel of American citizens in foreign countries to meet and exchange ideas with citizens there. The object was to promote among the peoples of the World a more complete understanding of mutual problems, desires, fears and aims. The free exchange of ideas was considered to be a means toward a lasting World Peace.

 In the Internal Revenue Service regulations, Rev. Rul. 57-38, it provides for certification of People-to-People committees. *fn2" This would assure a contributor that contribution to the committee would constitute allowable deductions. The Spokane Chapter was never certified under Rev. Rul. 57-38. Dr. Hunter stated he did not learn of possible certification until late in 1963 or in 1964.

 The Spokane Chapter has rendered volunteer services. It has been active in the student exchange programs. It has helped and been helped by the American Field Service and by Rotary Clubs in foreign countries. The services of the committee proper would appear to be for exclusively public purposes. Originally the United States Information Agency was helpful. Dr. Hunter said that after 1963 there were problems. A bulletin of USIA dated June 24, 1963, concerning the Spokane Chapter is set out below. *fn3"

 The Spokane Chapter has sponsored people coming here from South America to study agriculture. Its representatives meet foreign visitors who come to Spokane. They are met at the airport or railroad depot. The local members secure housing in local homes for the visitors. The community has recognized the worthwhile activities of the People-to-People organization as shown by the Liberty Bell award made by the Spokane County Bar Association.

 In 1961 plaintiffs, Gilbert J. Sheffels and his wife, went to the Orient on a tour sponsored by the Spokane Chapter of People-to-People. He became a member and attended meetings before the tour, which left Spokane November 9, 1961. He was one of the farmers on the tour of twenty-eight individuals. They went to San Francisco, Honolulu, Tokyo, Korea, Taipei, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Indonesia and Manila. On occasions he visited farms and discussed agriculture with people he would meet. The groups met with several Rotary Clubs, and on occasions were met and entertained by what would seem equivalent to a Chamber of Commerce Reception Committee.

 Mr. Sheffels described the time spent in meetings with "counterparts" as 95% in Korea, down to 30% in Hong Kong, where he met no farmers. When away, Mr. and Mrs. Sheffels sent letters home that were published in the local newspaper. On their return they gave talks to local groups to acquaint them with the problems of the people they had met on the trip. The Sheffels took numerous colored pictures which were artistically arranged to illustrate their talks. The talks were well received by the local groups.

 Dr. Marjorie Heitman went on a trip in 1961 which was for women doctors, nurses and teachers. She went to about twelve meetings before the trip where Dr. Hunter described the activities of the People-to-People organization. She took notes during the entire trip. The group went first to San Francisco, where they met representatives from the consulates of Indonesia, Japan and Free China. They went to Tokyo and were welcomed by Japanese officials. They were met at their hotel by individuals whom they entertained. In these foreign countries they met with women doctors, nurses, social workers, and teachers. Discussions generally were of the problems of alcoholism, socialized medicine and public health nursing. They were told before the trip that they would have no time to shop, which apparently from Dr. Heitman's testimony proved to be correct. The practice of medicine was discussed in each of the foreign countries visited. Dr. Heitman met people in public health service, as well as government officials. Her group toured hospitals, nursing homes and schools. They discussed the preparation of meals and sanitation. One particular method of food preparation was called "meals on wheels." It was of interest as it was new and novel. She made numerous talks to organizations and groups on her return. Dr. Heitman's tour apparently left little time for shopping or for individual sightseeing. The itinerary shows the group visited Tokyo, Taipei, Manila, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Djkarta, Melbourne, Canberra and Aukland, all in thirty days.

 Mr. Arnold Hanson testified for the defendant. He is the Deputy Assistant Director of the office of Private Cooperation within the U.S.I.S. He was familiar with the People-to-People tours. No local committees have been certified under Rev. Rul. 57-38. The certification has been only of the National organization.

 Mr. Hanson testified that the U.S.I.S. would not deal with the local chapters. His organization would take exception if a claim was made that the U.S.I.S. sponsored a tour. He had no personal knowledge of the activities of the Spokane Chapter. There is no procedure ...


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