A new audit released Thursday from New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer has found that the city failed to collect millions in taxes because it improperly credited an exemption for seniors to deceased people and corporations.
The audit examined the Senior Citizen Homeowners’ Exemption (SCHE), a tax exemption for seniors who own homes in New York City that can reduce the assessed value of a property by between 5 and 50 percent, the comptroller reported. That exemption, though, was improperly applied to properties formerly owned by seniors who had since died and to properties owned by corporations.
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“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 Yorkers,” Comptroller Stringer said. “This lost revenue could have gone toward building the affordable housing we desperately need or increasing resources for our school children.”
The Department of Finance’s failure to collect the proper amounts continued for years because the agency did not follow state tax laws that require homeowners to reapply for the credit every two years, according to the comptroller.In total, the Department of Finance improperly credited $59.2 million in tax breaks to over 3,800 ineligible properties.
From 2011, over 3,200 properties received 17,354 exemptions after the homeowner had died, 71 properties owned by corporations received 307 exemptions for which they were not eligible, and 573 properties that contained four or more units had the exemption applied to all units in the building instead of just the one that was qualified.
“New Yorkers work hard for their money, and they deserve a tax system that’s transparent and equitable,” Stringer stated. “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.”