Taxes in New York (TiNY) is a blog by the Hodgson Russ LLP State and Local Tax Practice Group members Chris Doyle, Peter Calleri, and Zoe Peppas. The weekly reports are intended to go out every Tuesday after the New York State Division of Tax Appeals (DTA) publishes new ALJ Determinations and Tribunal Decisions. In addition to the weekly reports, TiNY may provide analysis of and commentary on other developments in the world of New York tax law.

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Posts from March 2024.

I have an active imagination, and I use it to fill in the knowledge gaps I experience from not being privy to facts.

I reviewed this week’s cases and, unburdened with any facts or direct knowledge, imagined the following scenario which may not be accurate at all: In early 2023, the Powers That Be are informed that the then-current Supervising Administrative Law Judge is retiring and a new SALJ needs to be appointed. The appointee and the retiring SALJ get together and discuss a peaceful transition of power. Maybe the appointee asks: “What annoys you most about the job?” And the retiring SALJ says “I really don’t know what to do about petitions that arrive without the required information and attachments and are therefore facially invalid.” The appointee develops a system for addressing the issue: the DTA attempts to contact the petitioners by telephone and mail to give the petitioners an opportunity to cure the deficiencies in their petitions, and if there is no response or an inadequate response, the SALJ dismisses the petition. This works great for addressing deficient petitions if a telephone number has been provided. But there’s a bunch of petitions without telephone numbers that also need to be addressed. The appointee (now the new SALJ) develops a system to deal with those too but gives those petitioners more time to cure their petitions’ deficiencies since the petitioners or their advisors may only be contacted by mail, and the New SALJ determines that it is fairer to give those petitioners additional time. Plus, the appointee is busy with other administrative matters like keeping up with the steady flow of newly filed deficient petitions. 

About a year after her appointment, and coincidentally a year (plus or minus) since letters were sent by the DTA to certain petitioners that filed facially deficient petitions, the new SALJ decides the time has come to start dismissing the insufficient petitions. Her first year of experience has taught her an important lesson: in the absence of applicable rules, she may chart her own course as long as it is even-handed and provides due process to the petitioners. So, she devises a new short-form “Determination Dismissing Petition” which she uses to dismiss facially deficient petitions, with prejudice. And that leads to the four one-page determinations posted on the Division’s website on March 28, 2024, and summarized below.

If the reality is close to what I imagine, kudos to SALJ Gardiner for devising a streamlined process for addressing facially deficient petitions so these can be removed from the docket.

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” Bilbo and Gollum engage in a riddle contest. One of the riddles, edited (clumsily) for context, follows:

This thing all things devours; Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones to meal; Case is dismissed when its limit missed; Slays king, ruins town, And beats mountain down.

One Decision this week. And if you are good at riddles, you probably guessed it involves time.

Greetings. Your editor-in-chief is a little late to the game this week. Was Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day the culprit? Good guess, but no. I was taking a few days off this week and needed to push TiNY a couple of days past our normal Tuesday deadline to get a few client projects off my desk.

There are just two jurisdictional determinations to discuss. No surprises here.

“Mr. Speaker, the Editor-in-Chief of the TiNY Report.”

“Thank you. According to our subscriber statistics, TiNY added two loyal readers since last year.  But we lost one of our original twelve to retirement. So, the net gain in loyal readers is plus-one, and our loyal readership is now thirteen!

“During the last year, the Editor-in-Chief undertook a mental ‘walk about’ a couple of times, leaving TiNY readers in a lurch. Now we have two additional writers to make certain we don’t go off the rails again.

“To summarize, the state of the TiNY Report is strong.”

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

In other New York State tax news: The New York State Assembly and Senate are working on their “one-house” budget bills so budget negotiations can progress as the April 1 deadline approaches. Some media outlets (e.g., Spectrum News) have said that the Democrats who control the Senate and Assembly are reportedly considering new “wealth taxes” as part of their discussions. If you are an appraiser or a state tax lawyer (like us!), new wealth taxes will be great for business. But, in the long run, such taxes will simply accelerate the movement of wealthy individuals out of the State, which is bad news for New York. And, along those lines, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Business Council President Heather Briccetti Mulligan had a joint Op-Ed published in the New York Daily News on Friday, March 8. The Op-Ed discussed New York’s recent and significant out-migration, particularly among those working in the financial service industry, and what that might mean for the State’s fiscal stability. And it ain’t good. The not-so-subtle message to the Legislature: “Be very careful. New York is teetering on the edge of the abyss.” Briccetti Mulligan is the leader of the State’s most visible and important pro-business association. DiNapoli is a Democrat. When they get together on an issue, legislators should take note.

But at least TiNY is in good shape, right?

A Tribunal decision and two ALJ timies were issued by the DTA on March 7, 2024. The Tribunal decision was on a cigarette tax penalty issue. Those sometimes get my blood a-boil, but this one did not. Am I mellowing?

Not likely.

I tried to think of something clever to write about this being the first TiNY Report ever covering cases posted on “Leap Day,” but I was unable to come up with anything. I have consulted the internet and the next year during which Leap Day falls on a Thursday is 2052. I’m pretty sure I won’t be writing for TiNY at that point. But I come from long-lived stock, so there’s a chance I’ll still be reading it during my nursing home breakfast of stewed prunes and Jack Daniels. What? If I make it to 2052, you’re going to tell me I can’t have whiskey for breakfast? Good luck with that.

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