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ROWAN COS., INC. V. UNITED STATES, 452 U. S. 247 (1981)

U.S. Supreme Court

Rowan Cos., Inc. v. United States, 452 U.S. 247 (1981)

Rowan Cos., Inc. v. United States

No. 80-780

Argued April 21, 1981

Decided June 8, 1981

452 U.S. 247


Petitioner, for its own convenience, provided meals and lodging to its employees working on offshore oil rigs. Petitioner did not include the value of the meals and lodging in computing the employees' "wages" for the purpose of paying taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) or withholding the employees' federal income taxes. Upon audit, the Internal Revenue Service included the value of the meals and lodging in the employees' "wages" for FICA and FUTA, but not for income tax withholding. In doing so, the IRS acted consistently with Treasury Regulations that interpret the definition of "wages" in FICA and FUTA to include the value of such meals and lodging, whereas the substantially identical definition of "wages" in the income tax withholding provisions is interpreted by Treasury Regulations to exclude this value. Petitioner paid the additional assessment for FICA and FUTA taxes and brought suit in Federal District Court for a refund. The District Court granted summary judgment for the Government, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the different interpretations of the definition of "wages" was justified by the different purposes of FICA and FUTA, on the one hand, and income tax withholding, on the other.

Held: The Treasury Regulations interpreting the definition of "wages" in FICA and FUTA to include the value of the meals and lodging are invalid, for they fail to implement the statutory definition in a consistent or reasonable manner. The plain language and legislative histories of the relevant statutes indicate that Congress intended its definition of "wages" to be interpreted in the same manner for FICA and FUTA as for income tax withholding. Pp. 452 U. S. 250-263.

624 F.2d 701, reversed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 452 U. S. 263.

Page 452 U. S. 248

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