The establishment of the Tribunal on September 1, 1987 separated the administration of taxes from the adjudication of disputes between taxpayers and the Department of Taxation and Finance. Under prior law, disputes between taxpayers and the Department were resolved by a three-member State Tax Commission, the President of which was also the Commissioner of the Department. Since the Department was always one of the parties before the Commission, critics of the system noted that there was, at the least, a perception of bias.
In addition, the regulations which were at issue in many of the cases were promulgated by the Commission itself. Again, the criticism was that the body which had adopted the regulations at issue could not fairly and objectively review their validity or application in an adjudicatory proceeding.
Finally, under the former system the hearing function was performed by a hearing officer who heard the case and recommended a decision to the Tax Commission which in turn made the decision. Critics argued that the person who heard the case and had the opportunity at first hand to weigh the evidence and evaluate the credibility of the witnesses should be the person to make the decision.
Under the current system, the Commissioner of the Department is not a member of the Tribunal, and the members of the Tribunal and the Division of Tax Appeals are fully independent from the Department. The Tribunal has the authority to adopt rules and regulations relating only to the exercise of its duties, including rules of practice and procedure, and the duty of the Administrative Law Judge to hear and determine the cases before them.
The first Administrative Law Judge determinations were issued in the fall of 1987. The first determination of a Presiding Officer in a small claims case was issued in January of 1988. The first decision of the Tribunal was issued in February of 1988.
In April of 1989, the Tribunal moved its offices from the Tax Department building (#9) at the State Office Building Campus in Albany to the Riverfront Professional Tower, 500 Federal Street, Troy, New York. This physical separation of the Tribunal from the Department of Taxation and Finance was the necessary final step in the separation of the administration of taxes from the adjudication of tax controversies between taxpayers and the Department.
Until July 1, 1993, the Division of Tax Appeals/Tax Appeals Tribunal also maintained an office at the World Trade Center in New York City. Although this office was closed in 1993, the Division of Tax Appeals implemented a pilot program in January, 1997 and started holding hearings in New York City. This program was approved by Governor Pataki to ensure greater access for taxpayers to administrative tax proceedings. Oral argument proceedings before the Tribunal are held at the New York City location as well. The Tribunal is utilizing office space at the New York State Housing Finance Agency at 641 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan as part of a cooperative arrangement. From its inception, the Division of Tax Appeals has conducted small claims proceedings at various locations throughout the state including sites in the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Troy and New York City; and in the counties of Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk.
One of our primary goals is to become more accessible to taxpayers and their representatives. One way of achieving this is through the recent development of our Web page.