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New York State
The surgeon general may have determined that cigarettes are hazardous to your health, but the New York state tax department has decided they're going to be ruinous to your bank account as well. The penalty for possession of unstamped or unlawfully stamped packages of cigarettes has just quadrupled.
Emergency service units get a break in New York, thanks to a revised law. Starting June 1, voluntary ambulance services, volunteer fire companies, volunteer fire departments, and volunteer rescue squads will be able to claim a reimbursement of the petroleum business tax. This is in addition to the already existing reimbursements of the excise tax and the state and local sales tax for fuel used in these emergency vehicles.
The New York state economy added 23,800 private sector jobs in April 2013, according to a New York State Labor Department release. The state has now reached an all-time high private sector job count of 7,452,100 as of April 2013. The release also noted that between March and April 2013, the state's unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent, its lowest level since March 2009.
More than 7.9 million taxpayers e-filed their New York state personal income tax returns by the deadline this year, a 200,000 increase over last year and a record high, according to a tax department release. By the end of April, 87 percent of taxpayers had e-filed their personal returns.
The much-discussed and controversial bill that would mandate a certain amount of sick leave for New York City businesses passed in the City Council on May 8.
Retirees living on a pension can sign away part of their regular income in exchange for an immediate lump-sum payment. It's called a "pension advance," and according to a recent release from the New York State Department of Financial Services, the effective annual interest rates on these advances can exceed 100 percent. Clearly displeased with these schemes, the DFS has sent subpoenas to 10 companies engaging in pension advances.
From the movies to yogurt, Governor Andrew Cuomo has proved a vigorous booster of state industries, and now he's throwing his support behind spirit producers. In an April 30 release, the governor announced that 24 state distilleries will participate in the Manhattan Cocktail Classic’s Opening Night Gala later this month.
For the second year running, New York City is the number one city in the Americas for foreign direct investment, according to fDi Magazine's American Cities of the Future 2013/14 ranking. The city remains one of the world’s top destinations for investors, attracting 1.08 percent of global FDI. According to the ranking, the total number of FDI projects in New York increased by 10.4 percent over the past year.
Mwisa Chisunka has joined the state tax department in the newly created position of New York State Business Ombudswoman and Director of Business Tax Services and Education, according to a release from the department and Empire State Development. Her job will be to work closely with the business community to educate them about tax law developments, answer questions and guide them through issue resolution processes.
Right after the April 15 tax due date, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced that his office had halted $21.2 million in questionable personal income tax refunds spread over 6,353 improper filings.
How easy is it to find tax information on state tax department websites? That's what the Tax Foundation, which describes itself as a non-partisan tax research group based in Washington, D.C., tried to find out. New York is not the worst, but it's far from the best, it found.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in a recent release that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), at the state's request, has approved a 17-day extension to the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program. This allows eligible Sandy survivors who cannot return to their homes to stay in participating hotels or motels.
The deadline for residents living in one of the thirteen disaster-declared counties to register for FEMA assistance has been extended to April 13, according to an announcement from the governor's office. The previous deadline was March 29. This federal disaster aid can include money for rental assistance, essential home repairs, personal property losses and other items not covered by insurance.
March 20 marked the first time taxpayers with sales tax liabilities of less than $3,000 were allowed to e-file their returns through the tax department's new web system, and while many were able to process their information without incident, some members reported frustrating technical difficulties that impeded their ability to file in a timely manner.
Taxpayers may deduct personal property losses that aren't covered by insurance or other reimbursements on both federal and New York state returns. Recently, the IRS extended until Oct. 15, 2013, the deadline for taxpayers to decide whether to deduct a loss related to Sandy on the return for the year the loss actually occurred or on the return for the previous year, as noted in IRS Notice N-2013-21.
More than 60,000 taxpayers have chosen the New York tax refund debit card as an option to paper checks for refunds since the state tax department began offering the card last year. It continues to promote the debit card as a good choice for any taxpayer, but particularly for those without bank accounts, as it's widely accepted for cash withdrawals or bill paying.
The clock is running out: the IRS is holding onto refunds totaling more than $65 million for more than 62,000 individuals in the Empire State—that's a median of $620 for each person. These are refunds for New Yorkers who did not file returns for 2009, and if they don't file by April 15, 2013, they lose their chance to claim the funds, an IRS release says.
It's probably not the most widely filled out financial form in New York, but if you sell tires, it's important to you: Form MT-170, Waste Tire Management Fee Quarterly Return, which is due April 1. The state tax department is responsible for administering the fee, which is imposed by Environmental Conservation Law.
Governor Cuomo and the state Department of Financial Services have found another way to battle against payday loans, the short-term, high-interest loans that are already illegal in New York. In a Feb. 22 letter sent to all debt collectors operating in New York, DFS Superintendent Benjamin M. Lawsky told them that they are not allowed to try to collect on a payday loan in New York. The letter was announced and made public in a release from the DFS.
It's a little-known fact, but the New York comptroller's office has some authority over cakes and doughnuts. State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has convinced leading chain Dunkin' Donuts to obtain all the palm oil it uses in baking from sustainable sources as opposed to sources that are environmentally destructive, according to a release from the comptroller's office.
David Letterman isn't the only New Yorker with a Top 10 List. State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has released a list of the top ten consumer fraud complaints his office received in 2012. The release also offers advice on how to avoid scams, with tips New Yorkers should use to protect themselves and their families.
Below is a list of categories and subcategories, with the number of complaints received:
Something to brighten everyone's day in the middle of tax season: the NYSDTF has given its website a facelift. A statement from the department noted the site has a "sleek new homepage." Navigation is now easier, with quick access to popular online services and bold links to frequently used pages such as file a return, make a payment, check your refund and register or renew with the state as an employer or vendor.
The NYSDTF has published a list of some of the most common errors in filing state returns, shown below. Taxpayers can avoid some of these with electronic filing.
- Wrong identification number, such as a SSN, on the return. A related problem is a wrong SSN on a W-2 form. Taxpayers should ask employers for a corrected W-2 if that is the case.
As noted in a NYSSCPA E-zine article earlier this month, banks have been holding onto insurance checks meant for homeowners affected by Sandy, often citing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rules as the reason. At that time, Benjamin M. Lawsky, Superintendent of the state Department of Financial Services, reached out to banks and to the two "government-sponsored enterprises" (GSEs) asking for some flexibility.
Earlier this month the state tax department updated its guidance on identify theft and tax records. Sometimes a thief uses a taxpayer's stolen identity to file a forged tax return to get a fraudulent refund. Affected taxpayers may not find out until they file their legitimate returns and they clash in some way with the fraudulent returns, triggering an unexpected notice from the department.
As noted in an earlier NYSSCPA E-zine article, the state has completely revamped its "Sales Tax Web File" system. To make sure everyone is on-board with the new process, the NYSDTF has announced a series of one-hour webinars. The official page has more details on the changes.
The webinars, which require advanced registration are at the following dates and times: