1418. Returns to be secret. (a) Except in accordance with proper judicial order or as otherwise provided by law, it shall be unlawful for the tax appeals tribunal, the commissioner of taxation and finance, any officer or employee of the department of taxation and finance, any person engaged or retained by such department on an independent contract basis, or any person who, pursuant to this section, is permitted to inspect any return or to whom a copy, an abstract or a portion of any return is furnished, or to whom any information contained in any return is furnished, to divulge or make known in any manner the particulars set forth or disclosed in any return required under this article. Provided, however, that nothing in this section shall prohibit a recording officer from making a notation, or affixing stamps, on an instrument effecting a conveyance indicating the amount of tax paid. No recorded instrument effecting a conveyance shall be considered a return for purposes of this section.
(b) The officers charged with the custody of such returns shall not be required to produce any of them or evidence of anything contained in them in any action or proceeding in any court, except on behalf of the commissioner of taxation and finance in any action or proceeding under the provisions of this chapter or in any other action or proceeding involving the collection of a tax due under this chapter to which the state or the commissioner of taxation and finance is a party or a claimant, or on behalf of any party to any action or proceeding under the provisions of this article when the returns or facts shown thereby are directly involved in such action or proceeding, in any of which events the court may require the production of, and may admit in evidence, so much of said returns or of the facts shown thereby, as are pertinent to the action or proceeding and no more.
(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (a) of this section, the commissioner of taxation and finance may permit the secretary of the treasury of the United States or his delegates, or the proper tax officer of any city imposing a similar tax, or the authorized representative of either such officer, to inspect any return filed under this article, or may furnish to such officer or his authorized representative an abstract of any such return or supply him with information concerning an item contained in any such return, or disclosed by any investigation of tax liability under this article, but such permission shall be granted or such information furnished only if the laws of the United States or of such city, as the case may be, grant substantially similar privileges to the commissioner of taxation and finance or officer of this state charged with the administration of the tax imposed by this article, and only if such information is to be used for tax purposes only; and provided further the commissioner of taxation and finance may furnish to the commissioner of internal revenue or his authorized representative such returns filed under this article and other tax information, as he may consider proper, for use in court actions or proceedings under the internal revenue code, whether civil or criminal, where a written request therefor has been made to the commissioner of taxation and finance by the secretary of the treasury of the United States or his delegates, provided the laws of the United States grant substantially similar powers to the secretary of the treasury of the United States or his delegates. Where the commissioner of taxation and finance has so authorized the use of returns and other information in such actions or proceedings, officers and employees of the department of taxation and finance may testify in such actions or proceedings in respect to such returns or other information.
(d) The tax appeals tribunal shall, nevertheless, publish a copy or a summary of any decision rendered after the hearing required pursuant to this chapter.
(e) Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit the delivery to a grantor or grantee of an instrument effecting a conveyance or the duly authorized representative of a grantor or grantee of a certified copy of any return filed in connection with such instrument or to prohibit the publication of statistics so classified as to prevent the identification of particular returns and the items thereof, or the inspection by the attorney general or other legal representatives of the state of the return of any taxpayer who shall bring action to set aside or review the tax based thereon, or against whom an action or proceeding under this chapter has been recommended by the commissioner of taxation and finance or the attorney general or has been instituted, or the inspection of the returns required under this article by the comptroller or duly designated officer or employee of the state department of audit and control, for purposes of the audit of a refund of any tax paid by a taxpayer under this article.
(f) Any officer or employee of the state who willfully violates the provisions of this section shall be dismissed from office and be incapable of holding any public office in this state for a period of five years thereafter.
(g) Cross-reference. For criminal penalties, see article thirty-seven of this chapter.
(h) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (a) of this section, the commissioner may furnish information relating to real property transfers obtained or derived from returns filed pursuant to this article in relation to the real estate transfer tax, to the extent that such information is also required to be reported to the commissioner by section three hundred thirty-three of the real property law and section five hundred seventy-four of the real property tax law and the rules adopted thereunder, provided such information was collected through a combined process established pursuant to an agreement entered into with the commissioner pursuant to paragraph viii of subdivision one-e of section three hundred thirty-three of the real property law. The commissioner may redisclose such information to the extent authorized by section five hundred seventy-four of the real property tax law.
Last modified: February 3, 2019