Westchester Is Missing Out on Cuomo's Pre-Pay Tax Order

Executive orders and county legislatures are leaving taxpayers — and collectors — in a bit of a year-end mad dash, but leaving Westchersterites disappointed.

While New Yorkers were leaving work early for the holidays this past Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo was issuing a last-minute executive order in response to President Trump’s signing of the GOP tax bill that morning. The move was designed to allow New Yorkers to pay their 2018 property taxes on this year’s taxes, to maximize their deductions under the current tax code. Unfortunately, the move isn’t panning out the same in Westchester.

Related: Westchester Responds to the Senate Tax Bill

The new bill will cap property tax deductions at $10,000, significantly less than what some New Yorkers are currently paying.

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Cuomo’s executive order instructs local officials to issue the warrants for collection of taxes and deliver them to local collectors before midnight on Thursday, December 28. The order also suspends any local ordinance preventing or limiting a partial payment of property taxes until the end of the year, to allow taxpayers who will not know the exact figure of their taxes to still get the bulk of their deductions in under the wire.

As long as payments are postmarked by December 31, taxpayers will be able to claim those deductions on their 2017 taxes. This also requires that taxpayers have the funds to pre-pay all or part of their 2018 property taxes along with those for 2017.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day released a statement that residents were already inquiring about the order, and that the county has already sent the warrants to the County Legislature for approval. Should that pass on Wednesday, December 27, towns would have everything necessary to begin by Thursday. “It would be up to the town,” Day said, “to decide if they will accept payment before January 1.

A representative at Orange County’s Department of Finance similarly indicated that the decision ultimately rests with each municipality, while a representative for Putnam County’s office said the same but added that they are prepared to accept payments for any town that approves their warrants.

Westchester County is, unfortunately, much more problematic. According to Ned McCormack, a senior advisor to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Westchester County can legally only issue a single, unified warrant for all 259,034 properties in Westchester. Citing the logistical impossibilities of completing this vast, single warrant by year’s end, McCormack said as of Tuesday that there would be no way for Westchester residents to legally take advantage of the governor’s executive order.

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Governor Cuomo minced no words in his announcing the order:

“It’s targeted, unequal. It is designed to hurt us long-term from an economic competitive point of view,” adding “As Washington wages an all-out assault on this state and this nation, I have authorized local governments to allow property owners to pay part or all of their taxes early.”

“For those local government and school districts able to issue their warrants before the end of the year, we encourage them to do so,” said New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica. “We understand that for some, it would not be feasible nor practical.”

The tax revision is expected to raise federal income taxes on New Yorkers by more than $14 billion. It is hoped that this order will, at least for some residents, help reduce that figure somewhat … just not Westchester.

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