NE Queens electeds offer support for tax filers

By Madina Toure

Two lawmakers in northeast Queens are advocating on behalf of residents filing taxes as the tax season approaches.

State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) is expressing opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal that would alter the state School Tax Relief program, which provides a partial exemption from school property taxes.

Under Cuomo’s proposal, STAR would be converted from a property tax deduction into an income tax credit, while basic and enhanced STAR benefits would be frozen at last year’s levels, according to Rozic.

“The STAR program is a critical investment that has proven to be one of the most effective in providing Queens homeowners with deductions on their property tax bills,” she said. “Enacting the governor’s proposals would be a disservice not only to current and new homeowners, but also to efforts made to protect taxpayers and make New York’s property tax system transparent and equitable.”

The assemblywoman said working and middle-class families and seniors enrolled in STAR currently receive a direct deduction on their property tax bills.

If turned into an income tax credit, homeowners would have to pay a property tax increase before getting their money back after filing their income taxes, Rozic said.

She said the governor’s proposal to freeze STAR at 2015-2016 levels threatens the growth of exemption benefits homeowners depend on to cover the costs of rising property taxes.

The governor’s proposals, which he outlined in his 2015-16 executive budget in February 2015, were met with opposition given the Assembly’s efforts to address increasing property tax rates across New York, Rozic said.

At a news conference last Friday, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and the Queens Library announced a free online tax assistance program for those with a household income under $62,000 sponsored by the state Department of Taxation and Finance. The Flushing and Queensboro Hill branches will host the program through April.

About 92 percent of New York filers file their taxes electronically and the error rate for e-filed returns is 20 times lower than for paper returns, according to Stavisky.

If an individual’s combined income for 2015 did not exceed $62,000, the individual can e-file for free and if he or she qualifies for a tax refund, the individual can receive it far faster than if they filed a paper return, Stavisky said.

Services will be offered in English, Mandarin and Korean. Mandarin-, Korean- and Japanese-speaking volunteers will be available at the Queensboro Hill branch.

“Tax season is stressful for everyone, but even more so for low-income families who often cannot afford to hire outside help work on their tax forms,” she said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.