Odato: Meter’s running on email
By James M. Odato
Published 9:13 pm, Sunday, June 30, 2013
“Now that it’s clear from court decisions that emails are discoverable under the Freedom of Information Law, government’s response is to destroy them,” said Barry Leibowicz, a lawyer who successfully challenged the state tax department over FOIL issues.

Tax Agents Say State Has a Vendetta
By Marlene Kennedy
Courthouse News Service | November 06, 2012
The agents’ complaint includes an affidavit from a retired tax official who says he knows firsthand of telephone, email and in-person discussions between his former boss and “a group of high-ranking officials within the DTF [Department of Taxation and Finance]” about “using taxpayer records to investigate and audit personnel” in the state Office of Tax Enforcement.

Attorney Leibowicz called the audits a “vendetta.” He told the Times Union he will make a federal case for civil rights violations if any of the records he seeks show the department used its audit powers improperly.

For now, the plaintiffs ask, “that the court direct respondents to produce the withheld documents for copying and inspection, as well as any and all other documents or records relating to this matter not fitting within a specific FOIL exemption.”

ATU Public Secrecy gets a Scolding
Editorial: The Albany Times Union
Published Sunday, November 6, 2011
Barry Leibowicz, got a court order for tax records, only to find they were unreadable without special software — which the tax department refused to release, claiming that software isn’t subject to the Freedom of Information Law. The Appellate Division last week disagreed…. Imagine if the state had won this. As Mr. Leibowicz told the New York Law Journal, government could store information in proprietary formats and never have to release the software needed to decipher it. Government might as well write everything in a language only it knows….This is just the latest recent decision to remind state and local officials of their obligation to provide information to citizens.

Tax Department Software Subject to FOIL Application
By John Caher
New York Law Journal | November 4, 2011
Mr. Leibowicz, a descendant of Holocaust victims who was born in the Austrian refugee camp where his parents met, said that he pursued the FOIL case at his own expense after the tax case had settled, in part because he said he has a special appreciation through his parents’ experience that “if you don’t scrupulously watch what government is doing you will face a bigger problem in the future.”

“If they had upheld the denial, FOIL might as well have been repealed because all a government agency would have to do is store its records in a propriety format and refuse to give people the software to read it,” Mr. Leibowicz said. “I think the way New York State deals with records is cavalier to say the least. This was not a profit-making venture for me, it was an integrity issue.

New Yorkers Shrug Off Possible changes in Mortgage Deduction
By Philana Patterson
The Real Deal New York City Real Estate News
November 21, 2007
While some New York real estate industry trackers contend that the deduction doesn’t matter to people who are purchasing expensive homes, Barry Leibowicz, a tax attorney in Great Neck, Long Island, and an associate professor in the accounting department of Queens College, says the expected deduction factors into most people’s decision to buy a home. “The higher your tax bracket, the greater your benefit from the tax deduction,” Leibowicz said.

Such a change could have negative ramifications in rural markets where many high earners look to purchase vacation homes. “The real effect,” Leibowicz said, “would be on high-earning middle class people such as doctors, architects and small business people.”

Pataki Vetoes Taxpayer Rights Bill
In Brief
New York Law Journal | August 9, 2002
The New York Law Journal reports on then Governor Pataki’s veto of a Bill, written by Barry Leibowicz, which would have extended Miranda warnings to taxpayers in New York State criminal tax investigations. The bill had passed both houses of the legislature, but the Governor vetoed it after intense opposition by both the State and City tax agencies. This was despite the fact that it was IRS policy to give such warnings for decades.

For a discussion of the issue, and the continued efforts to secure a remedy through legislation, click here.

Small-Business Tax Crusade
By Caryn Eve Murray
Newsday: Money & Careers | August 25, 1996
TAXATION WITHOUT representation hardly seems like an issue for modern-day business accounting. But by his own admission, tax attorney Barry Leibowicz has rarely been one to shy away from any kind of battle with injustice.