The Third Department, over a two-justice dissent, determent the Tax Tribunal properly found that petitioner was a “responsible person” such that he can be held personally liable for unpaid employee withholding taxes. According to the dissent, petitioner held himself out as the business’s (NECC’s) financial decision-maker as part of an agreement with the 51% shareholder, Anthony Nastasi (the actual financial decision-maker) in order that the business would be certified as a minority business-enterprise and be eligible for certain state contracts as a result. In a parallel proceeding brought against petitioner by the IRS, petitioner was absolved of liability:
Notwithstanding evidence that could support a contrary determination, it is undisputed that petitioner was president, the majority shareholder, had check signing authority, was involved in daily field operations and derived a substantial part of his income from NECC. Additionally, petitioner intentionally held himself out to third parties, as well as to the Division of Taxation itself, as the contact person and responsible person for New York taxes by signing state tax returns and checks accompanying the returns, executing a sales tax certificate of authority listing himself as the corporation’s responsible person, filling out the Division’s “Responsible Person Questionnaire,” and maintaining communication with the Department. Accordingly, respondent’s determination that petitioner is a responsible person has a rational basis, is supported by substantial evidence and must be upheld … . Matter of Black v New York State Tax Appeals Trib., 2022 NY Slip Op 04200, Third Dept 6-30-22
Practice Point: Even though there was evidence petitioner was put in charge of the business solely to allow it to be certified as a minority business enterprise, the Third Department upheld the Tax Tribunal’s determination that petitioner was a “responsible person” liable for unpaid employee withholding taxes. The two dissenters argued petitioner was not a “responsible person” and should be absolved of liability, which was the result in the parallel IRS proceeding. The result in this case was dictated by the standard for appellate review of an administrative determination. As long as there is evidence in the record which supports the Tax Tribunal’s ruling, the ruling will be deemed rational and upheld.