Robertson Wins Tax Case Appeal, Saves $27M

Oct 29 2010 | 1:43am ET

Julian Robertson is now two-for-two in court battles over his 2000 tax bill.

The legendary hedge fund manager won an appeal lodged by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, which tried to tax Robertson as a New York City resident for that year. Had it succeeded, the Tiger Management founder would be on the hook for $27 million for the year he shuttered his hedge fund.

Robertson steadfastly maintained that he had spent only 183 days in 2000 in the city—the precise limit before a person is considered a city resident for tax purposes. The billionaire and his staff kept a close watch on the number of days Robertson spent in the city, where he has an apartment on Central Park South, in order to avoid exceeding that magic number.

A divided three-member New York State Tax Appeals Court rejected the state’s appeal of last year’s favorable decision for Robertson, who paid city taxes in 1998 and 1999 while his wife was being treated for breast cancer in New York. The whole matter came down to just two days—July 23rd and 24th.

Robertson had said he returned from a father-son golf outing in Ireland on July 24, which he spent in the city. But the flight actually landed at New York’s La Guardia Airport at 9:30 p.m. on July 23. Had Robertson gone straight to his Manhattan apartment after landing, that would have been his 184th day in the city.

But Robertson said he went to his Long Island estate that night, instead, to “earn the tax day,” despite the earlier claim that he had arrived on the 24th, and not the 23rd. Two of the three tax commissioners were satisfied by a car service record that showed one of his golf trip companions hired a car that first stopped in Old Brookville, where the companion lived, and then Locust Valley, where Robertson’s home is. Robertson said they shared the car. There were also records of phone calls made from Locust Valley that night.

One of the commissioners, Carroll Jenkins, voted for the state, arguing that Robertson hadn’t made a “clear and convincing” case that the 23rd was not a New York City day, given the “conflicting evidence.”

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