Say Pease IV, LLC v. New Hampshire Dept. of Rev. Admin.Annotate this Case
The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) appealed a superior court order that reversed its decision assessing a real estate transfer tax against Petitioners Say Pease, LLC and Say Pease IV, LLC. Two International Group, LLC (TIG) is a real estate holding company. It owned a ground lease on property near Pease International Tradeport that it wanted to use to secure a mortgage loan. To obtain the loan, TIG’s prospective lender required that TIG, and all of its members, be "single purpose bankruptcy remote entities." To comply with the lender’s requirement, the members of Say Pease formed Say Pease IV, a new limited liability company (LLC) with the same members. Say Pease IV’s LLC agreement provides that it was "formed for the sole purpose of being a Managing Member and Member of [TIG]" and was not authorized "to engage in any other activity[,] business or undertaking so long as [TIG] shall be indebted under any mortgage or other securitized loan." Say Pease’s interest in TIG was transferred to Say Pease IV, and Say Pease IV replaced Say Pease as TIG’s managing member. As a result of these transactions, Say Pease IV owned a 47.5% interest in TIG as a sole purpose remote bankruptcy entity, Say Pease held no interest in TIG, and TIG obtained the loan. Based upon this transfer, DRA issued notices assessing the real estate transfer tax against Say Pease and Say Pease IV. After appealing unsuccessfully through DRA’s administrative appeal process, Say Pease and Say Pease IV appealed to the superior court. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the trial court reversed DRA's order, ruling that the transfer at issue was not a "[c]ontractual transfer," RSA 78-B:1-a, II (2003), and, therefore, the real estate transfer tax did not apply. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the parties did not employ a business entity as a shield for an otherwise taxable exchange of value for an interest in property. Instead, those that executed Say Pease IV’s LLC agreement sought to maintain TIG’s original ownership while placing it in a suitable financing vehicle; the promises exchanged related to the creation of the financing vehicle, Say Pease IV, not the subsequent property transfer. Thus, the substance of the transaction here failed to create a bargained-for exchange because there was no "exchange of money, or other property and services, or property or services valued in money for an interest in real estate."