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Law Prof Loses Tax Case

by the Associated Press

November 24, 2003, 3:39 PM EST

New York's highest court decided Monday that the full income of a law professor who lives in Connecticut and works in New York is subject to New York taxes, despite his objections that his constitutional rights are being violated.

Edward Zelinsky personally argued in New York state courts that he was unfairly taxed for income he made teaching at Cardozo Law School in Manhattan two days a week. The rest of the time, the professor worked from his New Haven, Conn., home preparing and grading exams and doing scholarly research and writing, according to court papers.

Zelinsky apportioned his income tax payments in 1994 and 1995 to New York for only the time he spent working in the state, an approach that New York's Department of Taxation and Finance challenged. It is seeking $12,284 plus interest from Zelinsky for those two tax years.

The Court of Appeals said Monday the work Zelinsky did at home was "inextricably intertwined" with his duties at Cardozo and, as such, are subject to New York taxes.

It pointed out that Connecticut is subjecting Zelinsky to double taxation. Unlike New York, which gives its residents a credit for a portion of income taxes they may pay to other states, Connecticut has no such credits for taxes its citizens pay outside of that state.

"Allowing this taxpayer to allocate his income to Connecticut when he stays at home to do his work in connection with his teaching activity would enable him to avoid paying taxes that his colleagues who do that work at home in New York -- or at the law school -- pay," the court said in a ruling by Chief Judge Judith Kaye.

It was Zelinsky's decision to work from home for his own convenience, not because he was directed to by Cardozo officials, Kaye said.

"Non-residents employed in New York who work at home when not required to do so by their employers must treat those days as if they had been present at their work station in New York," Kaye wrote.

Zelinsky said Monday he was "grateful for the clarity with which Judge Kaye framed the issues." He said he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that New York is violating his rights under the commerce and due process clauses of the federal constitution.

Zelinsky's case concerns his specialty, he said.

"I am a tax law expert, although you wouldn't know it from reading this decision," said Zelinsky with a laugh Monday. "Apparently the Court of Appeals doesn't think so."

Monday's ruling affirmed a lower court decision in New York, plus determinations by a hearing officer and the state's Tax Appeals Tribunal that he owed the state more income taxes.

Zelinsky said he is still affiliated with Cardozo, but is spending this year as a visiting professor at Cornell Law School.