The final report of the New York State Tax
Reform and Fairness Commission was submitted
to the governor in November, outlining revenue
neutral policy options to modernize the
current tax system with the goals of increasing
its simplicity, fairness, economic competitiveness
The commission was charged with conducting a
comprehensive and objective review of the state’s
taxation policy, considering ways to eliminate tax
loopholes, promote administrative efficiency and
enhance tax collection and enforcement.
The report outlines five revenue-neutral
reform packages that will serve as options for
• Modernize the sales tax while funding lowand middle-income tax relief and overall real property tax relief. The commission asserts that there are better and more progressive ways to provide tax relief to low and moderate income New Yorkers through reforms of the current sales tax exemption structure.
• Modify the estate tax to relieve the burden on middle class families and small businesses by eliminating the tax on 73 percent of New Yorkers who would be required to pay it. The commission asserts this tax is wrongly targeted at middle class taxpayers.
• Reform the state’s corporate and bank franchise taxes for the first time in decades to better reflect how businesses operate in a 21st century economy. The commission asserts that the state’s basic corporate franchise tax structure is badly outdated, unduly complex and vulnerable to aggressive tax avoidance techniques. Similarly situated taxpayers are treated differently, and in some instances the tax creates disincentives to increasing a corporation’s activities in New York. Business tax credits should be annually evaluated in a transparent way to ascertain their effectiveness.
• Review best practices of property tax administration in order to make the system fairer and more equitable for local governments, businesses and homeowners. New York’s system of property tax administration has been ranked among the lowest in the 50 states. The commission asserts that current property tax administration lacks fairness and transparency, and represents a compliance burden for businesses.
• Simplify the administration of taxes to ease compliance for businesses and individuals in New York. The Commission asserts that many aspects of the tax code are unnecessarily burdensome, antiquated, or ripe for reform.
For example, temporary vendors (e.g. Christmas tree sellers) must file sales tax returns on the same quarterly schedule as other retailers. These vendors could be allowed to file their sales tax returns immediately after their last sale. Nuisance taxes could also be repealed, such as an existing tax on limited categories of income that is currently collected from only 200 taxpayers, generating just $200,000, annually. Other potential reforms would result in eliminating hundreds of thousands of people from the tax rolls, according to the commission.
Co-Chairman H. Carl McCall said New York’s finances have improved in recent years, “but our long-term economic prosperity relies on reform of the tax code and tax relief.”
Co-Chairman Peter J. Solomon said, “Modernizing our archaic taxes to make the system more fair and equitable will be an enormous boost to New York. We hope these options will further improve our business climate and help encourage job creation.”
The report will be shared with the New York State Tax Relief Commission, co-chaired by McCall and former governor George Pataki. The Tax Relief Commission is working to help identify ways to reduce the State’s property and business taxes, and will provide recommendations for consideration in the Governor’s 2014 State of the State message.