New York State Court of Appeals Holds That Cellular Data Transmission Equipment Is Taxable as Real Property

Posted Feb 1, 2019

In a unanimous decision issued on December 13, 2018, the New York State Court of Appeals held that most cellular data transmission equipment is taxable as real property in New York State. In re T-Mobile Northeast, LLC v. DeBellis, No. 140, 2018 WL 6533281 (Dec. 13, 2018). Prior to this decision, intermediate appellate courts in different parts of the state had reached opposite conclusions on the issue of whether cellular data and/or fiber optic transmission equipment and cables were taxable real property within the meaning of RPTL § 102(12)(i). Cf. In re T-Mobile Northeast, LLC v. DeBellis, 143 A.D.3d 992, 996 (2d Dep’t 2016) (holding that cellular data transmission equipment, including fiber optic cables, was taxable), aff’d, 2018 WL 6533281 (Dec. 13, 2018); with In re RCN N.Y. Commc’ns, LLC v. Tax Comm’n of City of N.Y., 95 A.D.3d 456, 457 (1st Dep’t 2012) (holding that fiber optic cables were not); see also In re Level 3 Commc’ns, LLC v. Chautauqua Cty., 148 A.D.3d 1702 (4th Dep’t 2017) (holding that fiber optic cables were not taxable real property under RPTL §102(12)(f)), lv denied, 30 N.Y. 3d 913 (2018).

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