Famed course developer avoids $27 million tax bill

Friday January 29th, 2010

Julian Robertson, the Wall Street tycoon who developed two of the world's most celebrated golf courses, has successfully fought off a $27 million tax demand from New York City.

Robertson is the creator of the acclaimed Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs layouts, both on New Zealand's North Island. Both courses are on Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses in the World, with Cape Kidnappers at 36 and Kauri Cliffs at 78.

In a dispute that reached back almost a decade, the city had been demanding Robertson pay $26,792,341 in taxes for the year 2000, which it claimed Robertson owed because he had spent more than half the year at his apartment in Manhattan. That would have made Robertson a resident of the city and liable for the huge bill.

The billionaire founder of the Tiger Fund countered by saying he had spent more than half the year outside the city, either at his estate in Locust Valley, Long Island, or traveling for business.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the case hinged on four days during that leap year of 2000: April 15, July 23, July 31 and Nov. 16. Evidence provided by Robertson had proven that of the other 362 days he had spent 183 of them in New York City and 179 days outside of it. The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance claimed that a lack of evidence about Robertson's whereabouts on those remaining four days rendered him a city resident and demanded the almost $27 million in taxes.

After producing exhaustive records (including computer calendars, phone records and car service records) and testimony from his family and staff, Robertson won a reprieve from the state's Division of Tax Appeals. The meticulous records noted every day Robertson was in the city, including one occasion when he entered Manhattan for the first time that day at 11:45pm.

The Journal report noted that the top city tax rate in 2000 was 3.78% and that the bill presented to Robertson suggests he had taxable income that year exceeding $700 million. Robertson declined to comment on his income, but told the Journal he "is pleased the court agreed with the documentation he provided and the merits of his arguments." A spokesman for the state tax department declined to comment other than to say an appeal is being considered.

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