Perhaps unnoticed by some, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2017-2018 Executive Budget— which contains several tax proposals—also includes a proposal that could ultimately result in the transfer of the New York State Tax Appeals Tribunal and the Division of Tax Appeals into a centralized administrative hearings division that would not be solely devoted to taxation. 2017 N.Y. Senate-Assembly Bill S02006, A03006. The proposal would create a new division of central administrative hearings headed by a Chief Administrative Law Judge appointed by the Governor.

Critically, the Chief ALJ would be given the authority to “establish, consolidate, reorganize or abolish any administrative hearing function” if the Chief ALJ concludes it is necessary for the efficient operation of the administrative hearings division. A Statement in Support of the proposal refers to “a national movement to consolidate State agency hearing processes,” and sets out one of the goals as allowing ALJs to “be more adaptable, receiving training in multiple areas of the law.”

The Tax Appeals Tribunal, which has been in existence for more than 30 years, is viewed by most taxpayers and practitioners as among the most respected state and local tax adjudicatory bodies in the United States, both for its expertise and for its independence. The Governor’s proposal, if enacted in its present form, could result in significant changes to the structure and operations of the Tax Appeals Tribunal, unless the proposed legislation is modified to exclude from its application the Division of Tax Appeals. We see no reason to change the structure and operations of the current New York State tax adjudicatory system, and we view it as important that such an exclusion be made part of the legislation.