New York, NY – With thousands of New Yorkers relieved from millions in unfair tax burdens utilizing the help of the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate (OTA), the City Council is looking to ensure this vital work continues. With the goal of enabling a long term option for New Yorkers seeking guidance and justice with tax issues, Council Member Ben Kallos joins Finance Chair Danny Dromm introducing legislation that will make the office permanent through statutory revision of the city charter.
Established in 2015 as an advocacy and service arm of the the New York City Department of Finance by Director Jacques Jiha, OTA has assisted New Yorkers for 6 years Passage of this legislation would make New York join Washington D.C. the first cities in the country to codify such an office, joining a number of states and a federal office.
The office has reported on significant results for New York City homeowners, businesses and non-profits.
Since April 1, 2016, OTA intervention has resulted in $15,633,506 in refunds, $22,687,936 in abatements, plus $22,709,531 in corrections, for a total of $61,030,973 in funds returned to taxpayers as of tax year 2020-21.
The Office of the Taxpayer Advocate provides a venue for independence, impartiality and confidentiality for New Yorkers seeking tax relief and currently employs advocates that listen to the taxpayer’s position, leading to investigation, evaluation, advocacy for changes supported by procedure or law, requests that the Department of Finance to take a second look, and advisement for the taxpayer for next steps. After an opportunity to evaluate the work of the office for 6 years, the legislation establishes that the office is worth keeping in place, looking to ensure its continued existence as an official municipal office governed by the City’s Department of Finance.
The office allows New Yorkers to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and provide direct assistance when complex issues arise especially involving the real property tax system. Based on community input, the office is able to identify and recommend solutions for systemic issues within the agency that cause difficulties to taxpayers, providing an invaluable resource to policy makers and other stakeholders. This independent evaluation of agency operations can be a gamechanger in identifying larger scale bottlenecks and inefficiencies, leading to better long term tax policy.
“It’s a no brainer that we need this office to be permanent in our City. Too many New Yorkers are often spread thin financially due to the high cost of living in our City. The office of the Taxpayer Advocate is literally saving homeowners from getting into debt or falling behind on taxes by advocating for them successfully, “said Council Member Ben Kallos. “New York City residents cannot afford for a future mayor to do away with this office on a whim to save money. So the best way to prevent that is put it in the law.”
By Council Member Kallos & Dromm
A LOCAL LAW
To amend the New York city charter and the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to establishing the office of the taxpayer advocate
Be it enacted by the Council as follows:
1 Section 1. Chapter 58 of the New York city charter is amended by adding a new section 2 1528 to read as follows:
3 § 1528 Office of Taxpayer Advocate.
4 a. There shall be established within the department an office of the taxpayer advocate. 5 Such office shall be under the supervision and direction of an official known as the taxpayer 6 advocate who shall be appointed by the mayor.
7 b The taxpayer advocate shall have the following functions, powers and duties: 8 1. to assist taxpayers in resolving problems with the department;
9 2. to identify areas in which taxpayers have problems in dealings with the department; 10 3. to propose solutions, including administrative changes to practices and procedures of 11 the department to mitigate problems identified in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this subdivision; 12 4. to recommend legislative action as may be appropriate to resolve problems 13 encountered by taxpayers; and
14 5. to preserve and promote the rights of the taxpayer.
15 c. The taxpayer advocate shall not prepare tax returns for taxpayers, nor shall the 16 taxpayer advocate participate in litigation on behalf of taxpayers.
17 § 2. Chapter 1 of Title 11 of the administrative code of the city of New York is amended 18 by adding a new section 11-143 to read as follows:
19 § 11-143 Office of the Taxpayer Advocate.
1 a. Appointment. 1. There shall be established within the department an office of the 2 taxpayer advocate. Such office shall be under the supervision and direction of an official known 3 as the taxpayer advocate who shall be appointed by the mayor.
4 2. An individual appointed as taxpayer advocate shall have experience in customer service, 5 tax law, and representing individual taxpayers.
6 3. An individual may be appointed as the taxpayer advocate only if such individual was 7 not an officer or employee of the department during the two-year period ending with such 8 appointment, and such individual agrees not to accept employment with the department for at least 9 five years after ceasing to be the taxpayer advocate. Service as an officer or employee of the office
10 of taxpayer advocate shall not be taken into account in applying this clause. 11 b. Duties and powers of the taxpayer advocate. The taxpayer advocate shall have the 12 following functions, powers and duties:
13 1. to assist taxpayers in resolving problems with the department;
14 2. to identify areas in which taxpayers have problems in dealings with the department; 15 3. to propose solutions, including administrative changes to practices and procedures of 16 the department to mitigate problems identified in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this subdivision; 17 4. to recommend legislative action as may be appropriate to resolve problems 18 encountered by taxpayers; and
19 5. to preserve and promote the rights of the taxpayer.
20 c. The taxpayer advocate shall not prepare tax returns for taxpayers, nor shall the taxpayer 21 advocate participate in litigation on behalf of taxpayers.
22 §3. This local law takes effect 6 days after it becomes law.