By Ken Berry
George Steinbrenner, the late owner of the New York Yankees who died in 2010, was as famous for his tirades against players and his off-season maneuverings as he was for the seven World Series championships his storied franchise won during his thirty-seven years of ownership. Now, one of his successors, his son Harold ("Hal") Steinbrenner, is gaining notoriety of a different sort: Hal is being sued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over a $670,494 tax refund he allegedly received by mistake in 2009.
The lawsuit – filed by the IRS on December 27, 2011, in federal court in Tampa, Florida – aims to recover the funds issued to Hal Steinbrenner, managing general partner of the Yankees, on December 28, 2009. The refund resulted from a dispute between the Steinbrenner family and the IRS for the 2001 tax year as well as audits of the team's parent company for the 2001 and 2002 tax years.
According to the complaint, George Steinbrenner and the IRS settled the audit issues in an agreement accepted on March 1, 2007. That agreement created adjustments to the tax returns of the beneficiaries of a family trust. Hal Steinbrenner is a 25 percent owner of the trust.
The IRS says that Hal paid his taxes in full in 2008 and filed an amended 2001 tax return in 2009, seeking a refund based on a $6.8 million net operating loss carried back from 2002.The IRS paid the refund, but then determined that the refund claim should have been filed by March 1, 2009 – or more than five months before Hal initiated the claim.
The Steinbrenner empire is admitting to no wrongdoing. In a prepared e-mail statement, family spokesperson Alice McGillion said, "Hal Steinbrenner's representatives had no knowledge of the lawsuit and had received no prior notices regarding the matter from the IRS or any other governmental agency." Even though the dispute amounts to less than the salary the Yankees would pay to a backup catcher, it will be interesting to see which side prevails.