Matter Blue Spruce Farms v. New York State Tax Commission - Supreme Court of New York

Matter Blue Spruce Farms v. New York State Tax Commission

By Supreme Court of New York

  • Release Date - Published: 1984-02-02
  • Book Genre: Law
  • Author: Supreme Court of New York
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Matter Blue Spruce Farms v. New York State Tax Commission Supreme Court of New York read online review & book description:

Appeal from a judgment of the Supreme Court at Special Term (Pennock, J.), entered April 29, 1983 in Albany County, which granted petitioners application, in a proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78, to annul a determination of the State Tax Commission denying petitioners application for a State sales tax refund. Petitioner raises and sells rats and mice for use in research laboratories. Petitioner sought a refund of $18,668.50 in local and State sales taxes paid on feed and chemicals for its animals from June 1, 1976 to June 1, 1979 pursuant to section 1115 (subd [a], par [6]) of the Tax Law. Petitioner contended that its breeding of animals constituted farming within the meaning of the statute entitling it to a tax exemption. The Department of Taxation and Finance denied petitioners application for a full refund, returning only the local sales taxes paid which are subject to a local statute which differs from the State statute. The departments decision was affirmed by the Tax Commission based on a regulation which provides that "[the] breeding of dogs, cats and other pets or laboratory animals is not farming" (20 NYCRR 528.7 [b], Example 2). Special Term concluded that petitioners activities constituted farming within the meaning of section 1115 (subd [a], par [6]) of the Tax Law and granted the petition for a refund with interest. It reasoned that petitioners activities fell within the dictionary definition of farming, that the department had promulgated inconsistent regulations (20 NYCRR 528.7 [d] [2], Example 3) as to what constitutes farming and, therefore, that petitioner is entitled to an exemption. There must be a reversal. Statutes creating a tax exemption are to be strictly and narrowly construed (Matter of Mobil Oil Corp. v Finance Administrator, 58 N.Y.2d 95, 98; Matter of Grace v New York State Tax Comm., 37 N.Y.2d 193, 195). The burden of proving entitlement to a tax exemption rests with the taxpayer (Matter of Young v Bragalini, 3 N.Y.2d 602, 605). To prevail over the administrative construction, petitioner must establish not only that its interpretation of the law is a plausible one but, also, that its interpretation is the only reasonable construction (see Matter of Lakeland Farms Co. v State Tax Comm., 40 A.D.2d 15, 18). Thus, unless the Department of Taxation and Finances regulation is shown to be irrational and inconsistent with the statute (Matter of Slattery Assoc. v Tully, 79 A.D.2d 761) or erroneous (Matter of Koner v Procaccino, 39 N.Y.2d 258), it should be upheld. Section 1115 of the Tax Law reads, in pertinent part, as follows: "(a) Receipts from the following shall be exempt [99 A.D.2d 867 Page 868]

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