New York City Lost Millions Of Dollars Giving Tax Breaks To The Deceased

According to an audit of New York City finances, the city is out upwards of $50 million dollars after giving huge tax exemptions to people who were so ineligible for the break that they were actually dead.

What would your boss do if you neglected to do an important part of your job for 10 long years and the company finally found out? Chances are, you’d be fired, sued, or otherwise held accountable for that error in judgement.

In this case, the New York City Department of Finance is the “employee” that forgot to do their job for an entire decade.

According to what Comptroller Scott Stringer told the New York Post, the New York City Department of Finance is supposed to do a full check every two years to ensure that people who are getting tax exemptions are still eligible for them. In this case, the city department simply forgot to do it for 10 years.

“This is just an irresponsible way to approach tax exemptions that are sorely needed by elderly [New York citizens],” Comptroller Stringer said. “I cannot believe for the life of me that over 10 years, the city never wondered what happened when someone died and the tax break continued.”

The audit released by the New York City Comptroller examined the Senior Citizen Homeowners’ Exemption (SCHE) and the Enhanced School Tax Relief exemption (STAR). The former reduces property taxes for elderly homeowners in New York that earn less than $37,400 per year. The latter also affects elderly homeowners and it exempts the first $62,200 value of the property from school taxes.

The results of the audit showed that 3,246 New York City properties were wrongfully given both the SCHE and STAR exemptions. Both exemptions cost the city millions of dollars.

The badly handled SCHE caused New York City to lose nearly $36 million dollars. The same properties were given the STAR exemption and caused New York City to lose over $10 million dollar.

“This is money we could have used to build affordable housing, or to help people who needed it the most. To improve our homeless facilities, where 57,000 people slept in shelters last night,” Comptroller Stringer told the New York Post. “With $US59 million, I calculate the city could have hired 700 new police officers.”

The deceased New York elderly were not the only ones getting those tax exemptions. Over 70 properties owned by companies and corporations were given exemptions they shouldn’t have been given, as well. Those exemptions cost New York City over $1 million dollars.

The city Department of Finances also accidentally gave nearly 600 properties with many units exemptions that were only meant for a single unit. That error cost New York City upwards of $11 million dollars.

“Our audit uncovered that the Department of Finance has been giving away tens of millions in tax exemptions meant for senior citizens to corporations and deceased [New York City residents],” the New York City comptroller told Metro.

“Believe it or not, there’s still more,” Stringer went on to tell the New York Post. “What we see as we peel the onion back is we are getting closer to $100 million [total].”

The New York City Department of Finances responded in writing to the audit, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“While [the New York Department of Finance] agrees that benefits to business entities should be recouped, the agency is still reviewing the issue with regard to individuals. Our main concern is unfair treatment to ‘innocent purchasers’ who might have been unaware of a benefit on their property.”

“[Residents of New York] work hard for their money, and they deserve a tax system that’s transparent and equitable,” Stringer told Metro. “Instead, these audits have made clear that the Department of Finance is not playing by the rules, and it’s taxpayers who have paid the price.”

[Photo by George Marks/Getty Images]