Lunding v. New York Tax Appeals Tribunal

PETITIONER: Lunding
RESPONDENT: New York Tax Appeals Tribunal
LOCATION: The White House

DOCKET NO.: 96-1462
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: New York Court of Appeals

CITATION: 522 US 287 (1998)
ARGUED: Nov 05, 1997
DECIDED: Jan 21, 1998

ADVOCATES:
Andrew D. Bing - Argued the cause for the respondents
Christopher H. Lunding - Argued the cause for the petitioners

Facts of the case

New York Tax Law section 631(b)(6) denies only nonresident taxpayers a state income tax deduction for alimony paid. In 1990, Christopher Lunding and his wife, residents of Connecticut, were required to pay higher taxes on their New York income when the State denied their attempted deduction of a pro rata portion of the alimony Lunding paid a previous spouse. Lunding commenced suit, asserting that section 631(b)(6) discriminates against New York nonresidents in violation of the Privileges and Immunities, Equal Protection, and Commerce Clauses of the Federal Constitution. Ultimately, the New York Court of Appeals held that section 631(b)(6) was adequately justified because New York residents who are subject to taxation on all of their income regardless of source should be entitled to the benefit of full deduction of expenses, while personal expenses of a nonresident taxpayer are more appropriately allocated to the State of residence.

Question

Does New York Tax Law section 631(b)(6), which effectively denies only nonresident taxpayers a state income tax deduction for alimony paid, violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution?

Media for Lunding v. New York Tax Appeals Tribunal

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 05, 1997 in Lunding v. New York Tax Appeals Tribunal

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in Number 96-1462, Christopher H. Lunding v. the New York Tax Appeals Tribunal.

Christopher H. Lunding:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

In calendar year 1990 I was a lawyer practicing law in the City of New York and residing some 38 miles from my office in the State of Connecticut, some 9,000 feet, plus or minus, over the State border.

It is something I did not think of when I moved to the State of Connecticut that I would be here today on my on behalf, challenging a statute of the State of New York as discriminating against me as a nonresident in taxation.

William H. Rehnquist:

What, 9,000 feet would be roughly, what, 2--

Christopher H. Lunding:

A little less than 2 miles over the State line, Your Honor, into Connecticut.

William H. Rehnquist:

--Well, but... okay.

Okay.

Christopher H. Lunding:

Right.

Close to the border.

Not that I think that in--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

That doesn't make a difference, though.

Christopher H. Lunding:

--No, it does not, Your Honor.

I do not urge that the distance from the State line is legally relevant in this case.

What is legally relevant, though, is the question of the constitutionality of New York State tax law 631(b)(6), which entirely denies--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, you don't argue, do you, or maybe you do, that in apportioning this income for people who work full or part-time in New York, that New York has to allow personal deductions of various kinds to out-of-State residents, do you?

I mean, deductions that don't relate to the production of income in New York?

Christopher H. Lunding:

--Well--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Let's talk about that kind of deduction.

It doesn't relate to the production of your income in New York.

Now, does New York have to worry about personal deductions of that kind?

Christopher H. Lunding:

--Well, the money is fungible, Justice O'Connor, and a substantial portion of my income and a much more substantial person... portion of other taxpayers' nonresident-in-New York income is earned in the State of New York.

I think there could be made a persuasive argument that, because of that, it is a requirement of the Privileges and Immunities Clause that nonresidents be allowed to take deductions in proportion that their New York income bears to their total income for personal expense items.

It is not necessary to reach that point in this case, and that's particularly because the nature of alimony is very different from the nature of other personal expense items in several respects.

In the first respect, in the State of Connecticut, as well as in other States, the amount of alimony is based, must be based upon the payor's total income from all sources.

Inevitably... one case so holding is Wanatowitz v. Wanatowitz, which is found in 533 A. 2d.

Because of that, inevitably in the setting of the amount of the alimony my New York income was taken into account.

So that's point number 1.

There's a direct connection there between the alimony and my New York income which is not present if it were a charitable deduction, or a real estate tax, or any number of--

William H. Rehnquist:

Couldn't you say, too, that you couldn't afford a very nice house in Connecticut which perhaps you have if you didn't make a good deal of money in New York, and therefore that New York ought to allow your property tax in Connecticut to be deducted?