Noonan’s Notes Blog is written by a team of Hodgson Russ tax attorneys led by the blog’s namesake, Tim Noonan. Noonan’s Notes Blog regularly provides analysis of and commentary on developments in the world of New York tax law.

Posts from June 2015.

courtroom gavelTaxpayers tend to face a difficult road when litigating tax disputes. We recently wrote about that here. It can be even more challenging, and costly, for taxpayers when they have to deal with more than one taxing authority on the same issue. For example, a federal income tax audit that increases a federal tax liability may very likely trigger a corresponding increase in state income tax. Indeed, in New York, like in most states, taxpayers have an affirmative obligation to report a “federal change” to the Department of Taxation. If the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uncovers additional revenue, New York wants to ensure that it gets its piece of the pie, too. Yet, one New York taxpayer just took this issue – the obligation to report a federal change – to court and won. And he did so in a case involving a tax shelter!

In February, the New York Times published an 8,000-word investigation into wealthy foreigners buying New York City real estate and taking advantage of U.S. laws that allow them to set up shell companies in order to obscure their true identities. The article, entitled “Towers of Secrecy,” points to Russian mobsters, corrupt Colombian politicians, and polluting Indian mining magnates. This type of publicity doesn’t mean that every person who uses an LLC to purchase or sell a New York City apartment is an apparent Bond villain. But the Times piece does underscore a recent enhanced focus on LLCs’ role in New York City real estate, and anyone considering using an LLC to transfer property in the city should take special note of a recent change to the city’s recording procedures.  

Questioning the constitutionality of state personal income tax provisions seems to be all the rage these days. On the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision in Comptroller v. Wynne discussed in our recent blog post, New York’s highest court heard oral arguments on Thursday, June 4, for two related cases to determine whether the taxation of nonresident shareholders of S corporations is constitutional.

Courthousee testimony standOne of the more interesting aspects I’ve seen in residency cases in my practice is the importance and understanding of a taxpayer’s intent in the overall analysis. That’s part of what makes residency cases so unique. There are likely very few situations in federal or state tax law where what is kicking around in somebody’s mind is critical to the determination of the tax issue. But the domicile test—which looks to discover where a taxpayer has his permanent or primary home—turns on the notion that the taxpayer’s intent can be a deciding factor. This can make the audit process really difficult. How do you prove to an auditor what your client was thinking? You can point to objective facts; you can point to case law; but how do you get into someone’s head? And more importantly, how do you convince an auditor to do the same?

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