A New York appellate court denied a motor fuel distributor’s (Distributor) motor fuel excise tax refund request on motor fuel brought into the state and delivered to a fuel refiner, marketer, and transporter (Marketer) “pursuant to an exchange agreement … whereby either company was permitted to remove fuel product from the terminal of its counterpart in exchange for similar treatment at a different time and location by the other.” The court found that the Distributor failed to prove that the Marketer had instead paid taxes on the fuel and that the Distributor was thus entitled to a refund. 

The New York Department of Taxation and Finance (Department) audited the Distributor and assessed motor fuel excise tax on approximately 13.8 gallons of motor fuel that it brought into New York between May 2011 and February 2012 and later provided to the Marketer via the exchange transaction. The Distributor later paid the taxes under protest and sought a refund, arguing that the Marketer had instead paid the applicable taxes.

New York imposes the motor fuel excise tax on “the initial importer of motor fuel” into the state. The distributor-seller importing motor fuel into the state must give the purchaser a certification that it had paid, or assumed the responsibility to pay, the tax and passed that amount through to the purchaser in the purchase price. The purchaser would then claim a “tax paid” credit for the taxes on its returns to avoid double taxation.

To prove the Marketer had instead paid the motor fuel excise tax, the Distributor relied on the affidavit of the custodian of the Marketer’s returns during the months at issue. He stated that he had created a workbook that proved the Marketer had paid the taxes because it did not claim the tax paid credits on the motor fuel. The Department’s auditor gave live testimony that the Distributor had failed to demonstrate that the same fuel had been taxed twice, noting what he claimed to be “significant inconsistencies” between the Distributor’s and Marketer’s returns. Based on the evidence, the court held that “given the conflict between the evidence offered through [the parties’ affidavit and testimony], there was an ample basis for the Tribunal to conclude that petitioner failed to establish a clearcut entitlement to a refund.”

In re Global Cos. LLC v. New York State Tax Appeals Trib., 227 A.D.3d 1197 (N.Y. App. Div. 2024).