- May 16, 1995
- All New York Branch Offices and Agents
- New York State Sales Tax on Real Property Search Services
We are pleased to advise you that the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has determined, after discussions with title industry representatives and upon its own internal review, that a sales tax on real property search services will not be imposed at this time. A copy of a memo from the New York State Land Title Association confirming the Department's determination is attached hereto.
The Department took the position that the imposition of any tax should come about by reason of legislative enactment or regulatory promulgation, not by way of declarations contained in letters from Department employees.
We think that the decision not to implement a sales tax on real property searches is a good one for the industry. It is also an excellent example of how a dialogue between government and private sector representatives can promote the perception that the State of New York is not a hostile environment in which to do business and, in fact, can be a place which fosters economic growth and activity.
TO: NYSLTA Members
FROM: Timothy J. Provost
SUBJECT: Update - TOP and Sales Tax
DATE: May 12, 1995
As many of you know, the Association has devoted many hours and many dollars of this year's budget on two issues of major significance to the title industry in New York State.
1. TOPS Program (Title Option Plus) which would have allowed Norwest to market a program very similar to lenders title insurance at a reduced price and not subject to regulation by the New York State Department of Insurance.
We are very pleased to announce that the State of New York Insurance Department, in a letter dated April 20, 1995 addressed to Harry N. Sandstrom, Deputy General Counsel for Norwest Mortgage, Inc., stated, in part: "We have determined that the product being marketed under the TOP program is title insurance as defined in Section 1101(a)(1) of the New York Insurance Law. Therefore, the TOP program is subject to all relevant sections of the Insurance Law. . . . The New York Insurance Law provides administrative, civil and criminal sanctions for any failure to comply with its provisions".
We believe that the information provided to the Department through the law firm retained by the Association was instrumental in the decision reached by the Department.
2. The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance had issued a letter declaring that title searches and other components of our title product would henceforward be subject to sales tax, thereby forcing title agents, abstractors and underwriters to become sales tax vendors.
The Association actively opposed this measure. A Committee chaired by Don Weigel directed the Association's lobbyist, Andrew Roffe, to oppose this change in practice. We have been successful in having the letters revoked and the proposed changes annulled. A copy of the letter confirming this from Steven U. Teitelbaum, Deputy Commissioner and Counsel is enclosed.
Thanks to Committee members, individuals, and our lobbyists in helping us attain these two major successes.
THIS BULLETIN IS FURNISHED TO INFORM YOU OF CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS. AS A REMINDER, YOU ARE CHARGED WITH KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONTENT ON VIRTUAL UNDERWRITER AS IT EXISTS FROM TIME TO TIME AS IT APPLIES TO YOU, AS WELL AS ANY OTHER INSTRUCTIONS. OUR UNDERWRITING AGREEMENTS DO NOT AUTHORIZE OUR ISSUING AGENTS TO ENGAGE IN SETTLEMENTS OR CLOSINGS ON BEHALF OF STEWART TITLE GUARANTY COMPANY. THIS BULLETIN IS NOT INTENDED TO DIRECT YOUR ESCROW OR SETTLEMENT PRACTICES OR TO CHANGE PROVISIONS OF APPLICABLE UNDERWRITING AGREEMENTS. CONFIDENTIAL, PROPRIETARY, OR NONPUBLIC PERSONAL INFORMATION SHOULD NEVER BE SHARED OR DISSEMINATED EXCEPT AS ALLOWED BY LAW. IF APPLICABLE STATE LAW OR REGULATION IMPOSES ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS, YOU SHOULD CONTINUE TO COMPLY WITH THOSE REQUIREMENTS.