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Thursday, April 17, 2014

NYS Tax Reform and Fairness Commission Presents Governor Cuomo with Final Report

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Recommendations seek to make the tax code simpler, fairer, help reduce burdens for families and businesses, and create economic growth


Today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was presented with the final report of the New York State Tax Reform and Fairness Commission. The Commission report outlines revenue neutral policy options to modernize the current tax system with the goals of increasing its simplicity, fairness, economic competitiveness and affordability. The report can be viewed here:http://www.governor.ny.gov/assets/documents/greenislandandreportandappendicies.pdf

"I want to thank Co-Chairs H. Carl McCall and Peter J. Solomon, the members of the Commission, and all the people who provided input to this process," said Governor Cuomo. "Since being elected Governor, my administration has focused on reversing New York's negative tax reputation, further improving our business climate and easing the burden on everyday taxpayers. Today''s report represents another step in that direction as we seek to simplify New York's antiquated and unnecessarily onerous tax code, and to ease the tax burden on families and businesses statewide." 

The New York State Tax Reform and Fairness Commission conducted a comprehensive and objective review of the State's taxation policy, considering ways to eliminate tax loopholes, promote administrative efficiency and enhance tax collection and enforcement.

The report outlines five revenue-neutral reform packages that will serve as options for consideration.

  • Modernize the sales tax while funding low- and middle-income tax relief and overall real property tax relief. The Commission asserts that there are better and more progressive ways to provide tax relief to low and moderate income New Yorkers through reforms of the current sales tax exemption structure.
  • Modify the estate tax to relieve the burden on middle class families and small businesses by eliminating the tax on 73% of New Yorkers who would be required to pay it. The Commission asserts this tax is wrongly targeted at middle class taxpayers.
  • Reform the State's corporate and bank franchise taxes for the first time in decades to better reflect how businesses operate in a 21st century economy. The Commission asserts that the State''s basic corporate franchise tax structure is badly outdated, unduly complex and vulnerable to aggressive tax avoidance techniques. Similarly situated taxpayers are treated differently, and in some instances the tax creates disincentives to increasing a corporation''s activities in New York. Business tax credits should be annually evaluated in a transparent way to ascertain their effectiveness.
  • Review best practices of property tax administration in order to make the system fairer and more equitable for local governments, businesses and homeowners. New York's system of property tax administration has been ranked among the lowest in the 50 states. The Commission asserts that current property tax administration lacks fairness and transparency, and represents a compliance burden for businesses.
  • Simplify the administration of taxes to ease compliance for businesses and individuals in New York. The Commission asserts that many aspects of the tax code are unnecessarily burdensome, antiquated, or ripe for reform. For example, temporary vendors (e.g. Christmas tree sellers) must file sales tax returns on the same quarterly schedule as other retailers. These vendors could be allowed to file their sales tax returns immediately after their last sale. Nuisance taxes could also be repealed, such as an existing tax on limited categories of income that is currently collected from only 200 taxpayers, generating just $200,000, annually. Other potential reforms would result in eliminating hundreds of thousands of people from the tax rolls.

Co-Chair H. Carl McCall said, "I'd like to thank the Governor for asking me to serve on this commission, and for the significant progress he has already made in making New York more competitive. New York's finances have greatly improved in recent years, but our long-term economic prosperity relies on reform of the tax code and tax relief." 

Co-Chair Peter J. Solomon said, "Modernizing our archaic taxes to make the system more fair and equitable will be an enormous boost to New York. We hope these options will further improve our business climate and help encourage job creation." 

James Parrott, Deputy Director and Chief Economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute, said, "The Commission's main sales tax proposal has the virtue of being progressive in linking the elimination of the state clothing sales tax exemption to an offsetting income tax credit for low- and moderate-income households, and much-needed income-based property tax relief."

James W. Wetzler, Former Commissioner of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, said, "Tax reform can make compliance much easier for taxpayers, make the system fairer, and spur economic growth in New York."

Dall W. Forsythe, Adjunct Professor of Finance at NYU's Wagner School and former New York State Budget Director said, "The current system violates the basic tax policy principles of fairness and efficiency. New York is long overdue in seeking out ways to streamline and standardize the tax code and I''m very encouraged by the Commission''s comprehensive and objective review."

The report will be shared with the New York State Tax Relief Commission, co-Chaired by Mr. McCall and Governor George Pataki. The Tax Relief Commission is working to help identify ways to reduce the State's property and business taxes, and will provide recommendations for consideration in the Governor's 2014 State of the State message.

Since taking office in 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken significant steps to improve New York's business climate and to make taxes more affordable for average New Yorkers. Significant reforms were undertaken in the State''s Personal Income Tax to increase its overall progressivity while assuring that all New Yorkers pay a lower income tax rate than when the Governor took office. Governor Cuomo also took major steps to reduce the high burden of the Real Property Tax by enacting the State''s first ever property tax cap in 2011. The cap limits increases in school and local real property taxes to two percent a year, or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, with narrow limited exemptions.