(a) Secrecy requirements.--(1) Except in accordance with proper judicial order or as otherwise provided by law, it shall be unlawful for 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 report or return or to whom a copy, an abstract or a portion of any report or return is furnished, or to whom any information contained in any report or return is furnished, to divulge or make known in any manner the value of the estate or any particulars set forth or disclosed in any report or return required under this article.
(2) The officers charged with the custody of such reports and 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 an 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 claimant, or on behalf of any party to any action or proceeding under the provisions of this article when the reports, returns or facts shown thereby are directly involved in such action or proceeding or in any proceeding under the surrogate's court procedure act to assist the surrogate to carry out his powers or duties under such act including, but not limited to the determination of the amount of court fees required to be paid under article twenty-four of such act, in any of which events the court may require the production of, and may admit in evidence, so much of said reports, returns or of the facts shown thereby, as are pertinent to the action or proceeding and no more.
(3) Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit the delivery to a surrogate or to any person liable for the payment of the tax imposed by this article or such liable person's duly authorized representative of a certified copy of any return, correspondence or other data filed in connection with the tax for which such person is liable or a copy of any workpaper, document or other data prepared or developed by the department during the processing, audit or investigation of that return or the collection of the tax derived therefrom or the delivery of any such copy to any person interested in the estate, any heir at law, next of kin, or beneficiary under the will, of such decedent, or a donee of property, but only if the commissioner or the surrogate, as the case may be, finds that such person, heir at law, next of kin, beneficiary, or donee has a material interest which will be affected by information contained therein. Further, nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit the publication of statistics so classified as to prevent the identification of particular reports or returns and the items thereof, or the inspection by the attorney general or other legal representatives of the state of the return of any person (or any report related to such return or any copy mentioned in the preceding sentence) 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 or the attorney general or has been instituted, or the inspection of the reports or 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. Further, nothing contained herein shall be construed to prevent an examination of any documents concerning an estate that are under the control of the surrogate by a title abstractor, attorney at law or title examiner or to prevent a title abstractor, attorney at law or title examiner from applying for and obtaining a discharge of lien in accordance with subsection (c) of section nine hundred eighty-two of this article or from receiving information needed in order to obtain such discharge, for the sole purpose of insuring title to real property or a chattel real and/or preparing a title abstract, title search, or title report in connection with real property or chattel real. The commissioner or the surrogate, as the case may be, may require such title abstractor, attorney at law or title examiner to certify that the sole purpose of such examination is for insuring title to real property or a chattel real and/or preparing a title abstract, title search or title report. Furthermore, nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit the delivery to a person entitled thereto under the provisions of this article of a receipt or certificate that the tax imposed under this article has been paid, in whole or in part.
(4)(A) Any officer or employee of the state who willfully violates the provisions of this subsection shall be dismissed from office and be incapable of holding any public office in this state for a period of five years thereafter.
(B) Cross-reference: For criminal penalties, see article thirty-seven of this chapter.
(b) Cooperation with the United States and other states.--Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (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 state imposing an estate, inheritance or death tax on the transfer of the estate of a deceased individual or on the transfer by will or the intestate laws of such state from any person dying seized or possessed of property in such state, 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 an investigation of tax liability under this article, but such permission shall be granted or such information furnished to such officer or his representative only if the laws of the United States or of such other state, as the case may be, grant substantially similar privileges to the commissioner of taxation and finance or such other officer of this state charged with the administration of the tax imposed by this article and 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, 1 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 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. Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit the delivery of any return or the furnishing of information thereon by the commissioner of taxation and finance to the taxing authorities of another state for the purpose of complying with the provisions of section nine hundred seventy-one-a of this article relating to additional proceedings in estates of nondomiciliary decedents.
(c) Procedure and preservation of returns.--(1) Reports and returns or in lieu thereof, copies or reproductions of such reports and returns, shall be preserved for eighteen years and thereafter until the commissioner of taxation and finance orders them to be destroyed.
(2) Requests for the inspection or disclosure of a report or return and such inspection or disclosure shall be made in such manner and at such time and place as shall be prescribed by the commissioner of taxation and finance.
(3)(A) A reproduction of a report or return shall, upon written request, be furnished to any person to whom disclosure or inspection of such report or return is authorized under this section. A reasonable fee may be prescribed for furnishing each page of such reproduction.
(B) Any reproduction of any report, return, document, or other matter made in accordance with this subsection shall have the same legal status as the original, and any such reproduction shall be admissible in evidence in any judicial or administrative proceeding as if it were the original, whether or not the original is in existence.
(d) Filing returns and making payment to depository banks.--Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, the commissioner of taxation and finance, in his discretion, may require or permit any or all of the estates, executors, beneficiaries and other persons liable for any tax imposed by this article to make payments on account of any tax, penalty or interest imposed by this article to banks, banking houses or trust companies designated by the commissioner of taxation and finance and to file returns with such banks, banking houses or trust companies as agents of the commissioner of taxation and finance, in lieu of making such payment to, or filing such returns with the commissioner of taxation and finance. However, the commissioner of taxation and finance shall designate only such banks, banking houses or trust companies as are or shall be designated by the comptroller as depositories pursuant to this article.
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