A New Zealand man owes US$2 million (NZ$3m) in New York income taxes according to a decision by the New York Tax Appeals Tribunal.
In its decision at the end of last year, the tribunal found that New Zealander Grant Biggar had a shortfall of US$2.08m in unpaid income taxes.
A long-time resident of New York, Biggar had filed state tax returns in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015, but not 2014.
This dispute arises over whether Biggar’s place of residence was New York City or New Zealand in 2014.
The tribunal found that Biggar filed his 2014 tax return as a non-resident of New York despite owning property and spending much of his time there.
Biggar claimed that after learning his mother was suffering from cancer in 2014 he returned to New Zealand to be with her.
He spent significant time with her until she died in mid-March 2014 and he said New Zealand became the “centre of gravity of his life”.
During his time in New Zealand, he stayed at his family home in Auckland and said he considered this his permanent home and domicile.
He received mail at this address and contributed to the upkeep of the property throughout his stay.
He explained that, with the death of his mother, he wanted to be closer to his father, with whom he had strained relations since the latter’s divorce from Biggar’s mother, and he made a “conscious effort” to spend more time with him.
Biggar’s legal representative Kenneth Zemsky told trade publication Law 360 that his client intended to return to New Zealand.
“The plan in this guy’s life was to go back to New Zealand as an economically self-sufficient individual,” Zemsky told the publication.
In April of 2014, Biggar also finalised the purchase of a penthouse apartment in Auckland for NZ$2.25m.
Biggar would then return to New York City on 28 April and proceeded to travel to a number of other states and countries, before returning to New Zealand in November. He stayed in New Zealand from 10 to 26 November.
An audit found that Biggar spent 93 days in New York versus 92 days in New Zealand from March 1, 2014.
While Biggar did increase his business interests in New Zealand, he also maintained interests in New York.
The tribunal ultimately found that despite his travels, Biggar could not show that his domicile had changed after 2013 – in turn making him liable for the unpaid taxes.