136 T.C. 1 (T.C. 2011), 11273-07, Historic Boardwalk Hall, LLC v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue
|Citation:||136 T.C. 1, 136 T.C. No. 1|
|Opinion Judge:||GOEKE, Judge.|
|Party Name:||HISTORIC BOARDWALK HALL, LLC, NEW JERSEY SPORTS AND EXPOSITION AUTHORITY, TAX MATTERS PARTNER, Petitioner v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, Respondent|
|Attorney:||Kevin M. Flynn and Michael Sardar, for petitioner. Daniel A. Rosen, Curt M. Rubin, Molly H. Donohue, and Sashka T. Koleva, for respondent.|
|Case Date:||January 03, 2011|
|Court:||United States Tax Court|
An appropriate decision will be entered.
New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) and Pitney Bowes (PB) formed Historic Boardwalk Hall, LLC, to allow PB to invest in the historic rehabilitation of the East Hall, a popular convention center in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The East Hall underwent a significant rehabilitation during the years at issue. On Forms 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income, for 2000, 2001, and 2002, Historic Boardwalk Hall claimed qualified rehabilitation expenditures and allocated those expenditures to PB, allowing PB to claim historic rehabilitation tax credits pursuant to sec. 47, I.R.C.
R issued an FPAA asserting alternative grounds for denying PB the claimed rehabilitation tax credits. R's overarching argument is that NJSEA sold the rehabilitation tax credits to PB for a fee. R also argues that the accuracy-related penalty pursuant to sec. 6662, I.R.C., applies.
Held: Historic Boardwalk Hall was not a sham and did not lack economic substance.
Held, further, PB did become a partner in Historic Boardwalk Hall.
Held, further, NJSEA did transfer the benefits and burdens of ownership of the East Hall to Historic Boardwalk Hall.
Held, further, the sec. 6662, I.R.C., penalty is not applicable.
Respondent issued a notice of final partnership administrative adjustment (FPAA) to Historic Boardwalk Hall, LLC (Historic Boardwalk Hall). The issues for decision are:
(1) Whether Historic Boardwalk Hall is a sham;
(2) whether Pitney Bowes was a partner in Historic Boardwalk Hall;
(3) whether New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA or petitioner) transferred the benefits and burdens of ownership of the East Hall to Historic Boardwalk Hall; and (4) whether Historic Boardwalk Hall is liable for section 6662  accuracy-related penalties for years 2000, 2001, and 2002.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Some of the facts have been stipulated, and the stipulations of fact and the attached exhibits are incorporated herein by this reference. NJSEA was created by the New Jersey State Legislature in 1971 and is a State instrumentality. NJSEA was initially formed to build, own, and operate the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
NJSEA's jurisdiction was expanded by the New Jersey State Legislature in January 1992 to include the Atlantic City Convention Center Project. That project authorized NJSEA to build, own, and operate a new convention center and to own and operate the East Hall (the East Hall is also known as Historic Boardwalk Hall).
To carry out the new Convention Center Project, the Atlantic County Improvement Authority (ACIA) and NJSEA entered into a lease for the East Hall whereby NJSEA leased the East Hall for a term of 35 years at a rent of $1 per year. Shortly thereafter, NJSEA entered into an operating agreement with the Atlantic City Convention Center Authority (ACCCA). ACCCA was initially formed to promote tourism in the Atlantic City region, and it would serve as day-to-day manager of the East Hall.
Later, NJSEA and ACCCA entered into a management agreement with Spectator Management Group (SMG). SMG was
well known for managing, marketing, and developing public assembly facilities, including convention and special event centers. NJSEA contracted to have SMG manage the East Hall because NJSEA felt that a private company would be able to promote, oversee, and manage the East Hall, the West Hall (a facility adjacent to the East Hall), and the soon-to-be constructed convention center. The management agreement stated that SMG would provide operations, marketing, finance, employee supervision, administrative, and other general management services.
SMG managed the East Hall day to day. SMG maintained a system of accounts for Historic Boardwalk Hall, and Historic Boardwalk Hall's annual audited financial statements were based on this system of accounts. Although SMG's initial agreement was for a 3-year term, it has been extended.
1. Overview of the Transaction at Issue
Historic Boardwalk Hall was organized under the laws of the State of New Jersey as a limited liability company on June 26, 2000. NJSEA was the sole member of Historic Boardwalk Hall at formation. On September 14, 2000, PB Historic Renovations, LLC (Pitney Bowes),  was admitted as a member of Historic Boardwalk Hall.
Historic Boardwalk Hall's purpose was to allow Pitney Bowes to invest in the rehabilitation of the East Hall. Because the East Hall was a historic structure, this rehabilitation project had the potential to earn section 47 historic rehabilitation credits.  Historic Boardwalk Hall's formation would allow Pitney Bowes, a private party, to earn these historic rehabilitation credits from the rehabilitation of a public, governmentally owned, building. Respondent argues that in substance the transaction was akin to NJSEA's selling rehabilitation credits to Pitney Bowes. To that end, respondent determined alternatively in the FPAA that Historic Boardwalk Hall is a sham, that Pitney Bowes was never a partner in Historic Boardwalk Hall, and that NJSEA never
transferred ownership of the East Hall to Historic Boardwalk Hall. A finding for respondent on any of these theories would prevent the section 47 rehabilitation credits from flowing to Pitney Bowes; instead they would flow to NJSEA. Petitioner contends instead that transactions like the one at issue were promoted and supported by Congress and are not shams.
2. East Hall History
Construction of the East Hall began in 1926 and was completed in 1929. It is located prominently at the center of the Atlantic City, New Jersey, Boardwalk and faces the Atlantic Ocean. The East Hall was a popular event space of exceptionally large dimensions, featuring an auditorium with a 130-foot ceiling and over 250,000 square feet of floor space.
After it was completed, the East Hall hosted a number of public events, including hockey matches, professional football games, and equestrian shows. The East Hall also hosted trade shows, conferences, meetings, and musical performances, including those of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Beginning in 1933, the East Hall hosted the Miss America pageant.
The East Hall was listed as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior on February 27, 1987. In January 1992 the New Jersey State Legislature authorized NJSEA to undertake construction of the new convention center and renovation of the East Hall. Once the new convention center was completed, it was expected to become the primary location for flat-floor conventions like the ones that had until that time been held in the East Hall. As a result, the East Hall would no longer draw those types of events and would have no use unless renovated.
Once construction began on the new convention center, representatives of NJSEA and other New Jersey State officials began to study and make plans for the future of the East Hall. Because it had become run down, the only way to make the East Hall usable again was to convert it to a special events facility that could host concerts, sporting events, family shows, and other civic events. This conversion would require that the East Hall be substantially rehabilitated. State officials in New Jersey decided to rehabilitate the East Hall and convert it into a mixed-use space.
Rehabilitation of the East Hall began in December 1998. It was to be completed in four phases: (1) Construction of scaffolding suspended from the auditorium's ceiling to facilitate rehabilitation of the ceiling; (2) removal of auditorium ceiling tiles and abatement of asbestos; (3) reconstruction of the ceiling using glass-fiber reinforced tiles and high-performance acoustical perforated aluminum tiles; and (4) construction of a new permanent arena seating bowl, construction of support services and patron amenities beneath the seating bowl, and restoration and historically accurate painting of the Hall's interior.
To pay for a portion of the renovation costs, on June 15, 1999, NJSEA issued about $49.5 million of State bonds. In addition, NJSEA received approximately $22 million from the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.  In the absence of an equity investor, the rehabilitation would have been funded entirely by the State of New Jersey.
3. Sovereign Capital Resources, LLC
In late 1998, Paul Hoffman (Mr. Hoffman) of Sovereign Capital Resources, LLC (Sovereign), contacted representatives of NJSEA. Sovereign was founded by Mr. Hoffman and a partner in 1995. Mr. Hoffman contacted NJSEA because he had learned of the East Hall renovation; one of Sovereign's business lines was raising equity for historic rehabilitations. NJSEA engaged the services of Sovereign to act as its financial adviser in finding an equity investor for the East Hall's rehabilitation. Respondent argues that this was not an investment, but rather Sovereign was facilitating a sale of the historic tax credits generated by the East Hall rehabilitation.
NJSEA engaged several law firms to review and opine on certain aspects of the transaction: (1) Wolf, Block, Schorr, Solis-Cohen, LLP; (2) Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione (Gibbons, Del Deo); and...
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